HERA-BE-Incubator-2021 - National infrastructure for genomic-epidemiologic surveillance of infectious diseases

Last updated on 7-6-2022 by Cassandre Dugailliez

In short

Recently, the European Commission has set up the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). This agency has initiated various HERA-Incubator projects in the different Member States aiming  to enhance the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to improve preparedness for a future epidemic or pandemic. The HERA-BE-Incubator project will implement a national infrastructure for data exchange, including the infectious disease typing results of the laboratories. These typing results are important in assessing tendencies of ongoing epidemics and to detect possible newly emerging outbreaks. This project allows a quicker detection of outbreaks in Belgium and across borders and helps to limit their impact.

Project summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of data to follow the tendencies of ongoing epidemics. Especially, infectious disease typing results of the laboratories are important in assessing dynamics of ongoing epidemics and to detect possible newly emerging outbreaks. Moreover, the combined epidemiological, clinical and genomic analyses have shown during the COVID-19 crisis to be important for the understanding of epidemic evolutions, including the variant severity.

Therefore, the HERA-BE-Incubator project aims

A)     to sustain the current COVID-19 genomic surveillance and

B)     to improve preparedness towards SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens and their possible outbreaks by the implementation of infrastructures to allow the combined genomic-epidemiologic surveillance of infectious diseases


The preparedness aspect of the project aims to enhance the national infrastructure for WGS-analyses and the infrastructures for data exchange and genomic-epidemiological analyses. This aims at strengthening of the public health response in Belgium towards local outbreaks and cross-border threats.

The preparedness aspect is defined in three panels:

1.      to create a national genomic databank and tools for processing, harmonisation and mid- to long-term storage of pathogen genomic data of the study case national reference centres for microbiology (and other laboratories in the next phases).

2.      to include genomic and epidemiologic information of the national reference centres into the national e-health information system (healthdata.be) in order to enhance data reporting and sharing and to allow integrated genomic–epidemiologic analysis to empower national and international outbreak investigations.

3.      to facilitate the active participation of clinical laboratories by creating an automated design, to describe quality aspects and to allow the sustainability of the project by developing a legal and operational framework.


Five study cases were selected to be included in the first phase of the HERA-BE-Incubator project: SARS-CoV-2, Salmonella, Listeria, Tuberculosis and Influenza. Study cases were selected based on their outbreak-prone nature. The national reference centers responsible for the study cases guide the design of the tools and databases, in order to ensure compliance with the work flows of any national reference center. These centers will also test the functionalities of the genomic tools and databases developed within the HERA-BE-Incubator project. The NRCs included in the first phase of the project will provide support to those planned to be included in a later phase.

Additional information 

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