The first 24 months of the project duration focused on preparing all three mobile laboratory units for operational readiness to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. A pool of potential responders for field missions was established. Responders are scientists and technicians experienced in infectious diseases diagnostics, molecular biology and research. The personnel stems from the partner institutes and associated partner institutes in Europe and Africa. Potential responders undergo training in workshops, mock deployments and simulation exercises organized by the consortium in Europe and Africa.
- Equipment: The extensive range of laboratory equipment was procured, checked, labeled and set into readiness for field deployment by the leading partner for the technical implementation and training, Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (InstMikroBioBW) in Munich, Germany. The equipment is stored ready to be deployed in 15 rugged transport boxes per unit, which each can be carried by individual responders as conventional luggage on public transport or in small vehicle.
- Test assays: A range of test assays that will potentially be used in field missions was compiled. These test assays will be adapted to the cold-chain independent chemistry used in the mobile laboratories units. The consortium constantly monitor for emerging infectious diseases and the portfolio of diagnostic assays will be amended if necessary.
- Training: Training for response and operation of the mobile laboratory units will be performed according to the training program and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that have been drafted by the consortium partners and according to pre-existing protocols, documents, rules and regulations. The training will enable the responders to run the laboratory units in the field, with logistical support for reagents and consumables from their home bases. The basic training for all three units will be provided by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (InstMikroBioBW) in Munich. Advanced training will then be provided by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology for the European unit, by the Istituto Nazionale per le Malattie Infettive "L. Spallanzani" (INMI) for the Tanzanian unit at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Dar es Salaam, and by the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) for the Nigerian unit at the Institute for Lassa Fever Research and Control (ILFRC) at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH).
- Workshops: Two workshops are planned at the two African partner institutes to bring together international and local experts, public health officials and government agents in order to foster an excellent working relationship and discuss strategies for the future response to epidemics in the regions concerned.
- Exercises: Simulation exercises and mock deployments will be conducted. These will provide the opportunity to simulate the deployment of the mobile lab equipment under field conditions in Europe and Africa. Potential responders will have the chance to gain hands-on experience and confidence with the mobile laboratory units and team work will be encouraged. These training missions will also test the equipment and will highlight deficiencies that need corrections for actual outbreak missions.
- Outbreak missions: Once operational readiness is reached, the mobile laboratory units will be ready to respond to diagnostic field missions at the site of outbreaks of epidemic infectious diseases upon request. The established human, technical and logistical infrastructure shall enable a quick and coordinated response by the units.
- Collaboration: To strengthen scientific collaboration between European and African research institutes, research on infectious diseases will be conducted as well. These interepidemic research programs will deal with diagnostics and research on infectious diseases that are endemic to Nigeria and Tanzania, the countries of the African partner institutes. Scientists from the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) in Nigeria and from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Tanzania will also conduct these research programs at European partner institutes.
- Meetings: The consortium will include an External Expert Advisory Board and an Executive Board. These boards will meet in order to steer the project towards its aims and, together with the General Assembly formed by all partners, make decisions on strategy, missions and operations. The External Expert Advisory Board will be composed of public health officials and health professionals that are experienced in the management of and response to epidemic disease outbreaks. The Executive Board is composed of the three partners: Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), Istituto Nazionale per le Malattie Infettive “L. Spallanzani” (INMI) and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (InstMikroBioBW).