Vietnam is a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases such as dengue, viral encephalitis, measles, influenza, and other infectious diseases. The burden of hepatitis B, hepatitis delta, hepatitis E and of antimicrobial resistances is well documented. In this context, the Vietnamese-German Center of Excellence (VG-EXCEL) was established to conduct clinical research on infectious diseases in Vietnam and in the ASEAN-Region. VG-EXCEL aims to strengthen competences in the health care system both locally and regionally.
Professional exchange among VG-EXCEL experts © Trung Pham / VG-CARE
Along with the increasing mobility of the world's population, there is also growing knowledge about the spread of infectious diseases, which are among the greatest threats to global health. Health measures must be based on proven evidence. This can only be adequately guaranteed on the basis of fundamental and applied clinical research that is geared towards new treatment strategies, prevention through vaccination and effective control of infectious diseases.
Vietnam has approximately 96 million inhabitants and remains a hotspot for many infectious diseases such as dengue, viral encephalitis, measles, flu and other viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. For example high rates of viral hepatitis (hepatitis B >15%, hepatitis D 11%, hepatitis E >20%) are documented and there are high rates of antibiotic resistance in the population due to insufficient 'antibiotic stewardship'.
Lab work at VG-EXCEL © Trung Pham / VG-CARE
Globalisation favours the spread of infectious diseases. That is why research in the field of infectious diseases is of paramount importance. With the support of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; 01.08.2017 - 31.07.2022), the Vietnamese-German Center of Excellence (VG-EXCEL) was founded as a centre for clinical research in the field of infectious diseases in Vietnam and in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The aim of the centre is to strengthen and expand competencies in the patient care system, taking into account global health problems locally and regionally.
VG-EXCEL is currently involved in the implementation of ICH-GCP/GCLP-compliant clinical studies on new treatment regimens, vaccinations, diagnostic systems, interventional and observational studies on various infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance and oncology.
VG-EXCEL was founded as part of the Vietnamese-German Center for Medical Research (VG-CARE) on the basis of the longstanding collaboration between the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen and the 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi. By declaration of the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, VG-CARE received the official status of an independent, non-profit legal entity and was inaugurated on January 16, 2018 in the presence of the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Defense.
Together with VG-EXCEL, the centre is now engaged in clinical research on viral hepatitis, viral and bacterial meningitis / encephalitis, dengue fever, malaria, respiratory and diarrheal diseases and other bacterial / viral / parasitic infections. The aim is to make the internationalisation process in science and research sustainable through global networking. VG-CARE welcomes suggestions for further research projects and is open to cooperation initiatives.
VG-EXCEL training event on parasitlogy © Trung Pham / VG-CARE
The main goal of the VG-EXCEL project is to create a platform for the implementation of ICH-GCP/GCLP-compliant clinical studies on new treatment strategies, vaccinations, diagnostic systems as well as interventional and observational studies on various infectious diseases in the region.
Further goals of the project include support and expansion of VG-CARE's research capacities and the conduct of a clinical phase II study according to ICH-GCP/GCLP standards (Phase II Randomised, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial of Neoadjuvant Artesunate in Stage II/III Colorectal Cancer in Vietnamese Patients [NeoART-v study]). Artesunate is an inexpensive, orally applicable and widely used medication for malaria, which has antitumor properties. A total of 200 patients are to be recruited by the end of 2021.
This study provides an excellent opportunity for Vietnamese scientists to be trained in the conduct of clinical trials according to international GCP/GCLP standards. At the same time, young scientists and students from Germany and Vietnam are supported in obtaining their academic degrees (MSc, MD, PhD).
In addition, VG-EXCEL will be expanded as a central platform for clinical studies of various German and Vietnamese, but also international institutions. For example, a joint study 'Human coevolution with Bifidobacterium and the microbial contribution to lactose tolerance in Vietnam' was successfully carried out with the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen.
In addition, the centre is now represented in numerous international consortia and congresses. VG-EXCEL is currently the only institution in Vietnam that is able to conduct ICH (International Council for Harmonization) -compliant clinical studies according to GCP/GCLP standards. A data monitoring committee is set up for each study and REDCAP, OpenClinica and other internet-based tools are used to manage, record, store and process all collected data.
Annual meeting of the VG-EXCEL project in 2020 © Trung Pham / VG-CARE
Activities to promote the profile of scientists and the continuous expansion of long-term education and research concepts that are to become part of routine clinical, laboratory and research practices in Vietnam are an integral part of VG-EXCEL. Overall, VG-EXCEL is intended to provide existing technologies, assays and diagnostic tools as an interactive platform and to support VG-CARE in upgrading diagnostic laboratories to reference laboratories.
Based on the unrestricted availability of well-characterised and documented biological samples of diseases that do not occur in Europe (infectious and tropical diseases), VG-EXCEL endeavours to establish appropriate biobanks that also benefit German partners.
Institute of Tropical Medicine
Prof. Dr. Thirumalaisamy P. Velavan