Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Swiss scientist selected for WHO pathogen panel

Kathrin Summermatter
Kathrin Summermatter says a leak of the coronavirus from a Chinese laboratory is 'highly unlikely' Keystone / Anthony Anex

Kathrin Summermatter, head of the Biosafety Centre at the Institute of Infectious Diseases at the University of Bern, is one of 26 experts chosen to be part of a World Health Organization (WHO) panel on the origins of new pathogens.

The Geneva-based WHO on Wednesday proposed 26 experts to form its new Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of novel pathogens (SAGOExternal link), including several who served on its mission to Wuhan, China, to probe the source of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

In the past Summermatter has assessed the security of various Chinese, American and Russian laboratories for research on certain viruses for the WHO. She has repeatedly described the scenario of a leak of the coronavirus from a Chinese laboratory as “highly unlikely”.

The WHO statement named the 26 proposed members ahead of a two-week period of public consultation, including Marion Koopmans, Thea Fischer, Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui.

Broad range of expertise

“Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential and requires a broad range of expertise. We are very pleased with the calibre of experts selected for SAGO from around the world,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

The WHO launched the request for applications last August, saying it was looking for the greatest scientific minds to advise on investigations into new high-threat pathogens that jump from animals to humans and could spark the next pandemic.

In total more than 700 people contacted the WHO to be part of SAGO, which will bring together epidemiologists and specialists in animal health, ecology, virology, food safety and public health.


In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR