Cross-cutting strategic themes
The Agency’s cross-cutting strategic themes
The Agency has defined seven cross-cutting strategic themes, each managed by a Scientific Director, to strengthen scientific collaboration and coordination in these areas, between laboratories and with the Risk Assessment and Regulated Products Departments. The aim is to build synergies in the implementation of analytical reference and research work, in order to bring into line the production of knowledge and the knowledge requirements identified by assessors.
These seven cross-cutting strategic themes are as follows:
- Animal health and welfare
- Plant health
- Food safety
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Exposure to and toxicology of chemical contaminants
- Epidemiology and surveillance
- Occupational health
Scientific Director: Gilles Salvat
Animal health and welfare constitute a major scientific research, reference and risk assessment activity at ANSES. As part of a One Health, One Welfare approach, the Agency's laboratories have several national, European and international reference mandates for animal diseases and animal welfare. Their research contributes to the risk assessment work carried out by the Agency in these areas.
The research and reference topics covered in the area of animal health deal with diseases whose management is regulated, zoonotic diseases (which can be transmitted from animals to humans), diseases responsible for major epidemics in domestic and wild animals, and diseases having a significant impact on the health of farm animals and the economic performance of farms. The Agency’s scientists strive to:
- develop innovative methods for the detection of infectious diseases and the characterisation of pathogens,
- characterise host/pathogen/vector relationships,
- study the factors enabling pathogens to cross the species barrier,
- develop methods for the prevention of disease, to reduce the use of antimicrobials,
- develop animal models and alternatives to their use for the evaluation of animal health,
- analyse the causes of the emergence and spread of diseases from wildlife and via livestock rearing conditions and feed,
- assess the risks associated with animal diseases for food production industries and for public health,
- monitor the emergence and spread of diseases and risk factors for their expression and spread,
- monitor and assess the quality and efficacy of veterinary medicinal products and study their safety with respect to animals, humans and the environment.
In the area of animal welfare, the research, reference and risk assessment activities carried out by the Agency’s scientists are part of an integrated approach to health and welfare. They contribute to the development and assessment of new farming methods (with or without access to the outdoors), by analysing their effects on animal health and welfare. They also explore the impact of the prenatal period on the future welfare and health of animals and develop indicators and tools to assess this welfare.
The Animal health and welfare theme is coordinated in a cross-cutting manner through the organisation of scientific sessions and seminars; the internal funding of the cross-cutting research projects of the Agency’s laboratories, the Risk Assessment Department and the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products; the funding of grants for doctoral research; and consultations between the various themes’ Scientific Directors under the aegis of the Strategy & Programmes Department.
Scientific Director: Philippe Reignault
The Agency's involvement in issues relating to plant health and protection has been relatively recent. The increase in emerging diseases and changes in practices with regard to the management of plant pests are major strategic challenges. ANSES carries out complementary activities to address them:
- reference and research activities, with innovative, effective tools for diagnosis and identification;
- surveillance activities, in conjunction with epidemiology;
- and assessment activities, focusing on biological risks and plant protection products.
These complementary activities require cross-cutting coordination. In light of global changes and an increasing number of health crises, it has become necessary to rally stakeholders and their expertise, from the prevention and anticipation to the surveillance of epidemics, by way of resistance to plant protection products and their unintended effects, in a context characterised by the growing use of biocontrol, which relies on natural mechanisms to protect plants.
All plants, whether from cultivated, forest or natural areas, need to be protected from micro-organisms, pests, weeds and invasive plants. These harmful organisms may be categorised as regulated or emerging.
To this end, the Agency's various entities concerned, i.e. the Plant Health (LSV) and Lyon Laboratories, the Risk Assessment Department (in particular as part of the phytopharmacovigilance scheme and the mission on vectors), the Regulated Products Assessment Department and the Market Authorisations Department, all work in a cross-cutting manner to address the Plant health theme.
Scientific Director: Anne Brisabois
Food safety is a historical challenge that contributed to ANSES's creation and has grown in importance over time, becoming a major concern in terms of public health and for citizens. Still recent events have driven us to take an even broader approach to food safety to ensure access to safe, healthy and sustainable food. Over the last few years, these aspects have become key priorities for consumers.
In fact, this area is currently undergoing a genuine revolution due to changing food production, processing, distribution and consumption habits and practices and also because of global changes, especially those affecting the environment.
In this context, the Food safety theme aims to run and coordinate the reference, surveillance and research activities carried out in this area by ANSES's teams spread out across six different laboratories; it also endeavours to link these actions to those relating to expert appraisal and risk assessment, undertaken primarily by the Risk Assessment Department.
This theme interfaces with ANSES's other cross-cutting strategic themes. It helps ensure healthy, safe and sustainable food. The work and activities conducted as part of this theme contribute to meeting health & safety expectations in relation to chemical, biological and microbiological hazards. It provides a cross-cutting view of the entire food production chain, in accordance with the European “Farm to Fork” strategy, for risk-benefit assessment purposes.
Scientific Director: Jean-Yves Madec
Resistance to antibiotics, or antimicrobial resistance, is a worldwide phenomenon that knows no geographic boundaries or species barriers and constitutes a global health threat, to humans, animals and the environment. This warrants a “One Health” approach to this topic, with coordinated control strategies across these three sectors. According to the O’Neill report (2016), antimicrobial resistance could be responsible for over 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
Antimicrobial resistance is a long-standing high-priority scientific challenge for ANSES. The Agency has been conducting work on this topic for 40 or so years (creation in 1982 of the RESABO network, now RESAPATH, in charge of monitoring antimicrobial resistance in animal health). In the 2000s, the development of European surveillance schemes for antimicrobial resistance at the slaughterhouse in a regulatory framework strengthened its involvement, as it was entrusted with the mandate of National Reference Laboratory.
The French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products, which is part of ANSES, has also been recording sales of veterinary antibiotics in France for nearly 20 years; it also analyses trends in animal exposure. More broadly, ANSES is heavily involved in supporting public policies to control antimicrobial resistance (EcoAntibio plans 1 and 2), and it has carried out several expert appraisals on antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance over the past few years.
The Agency is also extremely active on the European and international scenes, contributing to the work of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and that of the tripartite groups of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). ANSES has had the mandate of OIE Collaborating Centre for antibiotic use since 1995 and that of FAO Reference Centre for antimicrobial resistance since 2020.
Regarding the activities of ANSES's laboratories, three main scientific priorities have been defined: monitoring emerging developments and trends in antimicrobial resistance in the animal sector, and comparing them with the data collected in human medicine; characterising the resistome, i.e. genetic carriers of antimicrobial resistance, as well as gene flows and multi-resistant bacteria, to assess risks of transmission between sectors; and adopting approaches correlating exposure to antimicrobials (or their alternatives) and the observable effects of selection for antimicrobial resistance in various ecosystems (microbiotas, natural environments, industrial surfaces, etc.).
Scientific Director: Pascal Sanders
ANSES is responsible for assessing several classes of regulated products (plant protection products, biocides and fertilisers, veterinary medicinal products) before they can be placed on the market; it also enforces the Regulation on the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH). Several teams and expert committees are in charge of assessing the risks associated with exposure to chemicals.
Numerous natural substances (e.g. toxins, alkaloids, inorganic substances) are toxic to humans and the environment; they are monitored and assessed for the risks they pose, and any incidents involving them are reported, via the Agency's toxicovigilance and pharmacovigilance activities.
Throughout their lifetimes, humans are exposed to various hazards via food, air and water, their use of consumer goods, and their professional and personal activities.
Risk assessment is based on the characterisation of hazards to humans (toxicology) and the estimation of exposure via various routes, both for the general public and for workers. For the environment, it is based on eco-toxicology studies on various organisms and the measurement of exposure in ecosystems. As part of their research and reference activities, ANSES's laboratories contribute to the surveillance and control of this exposure and to the characterisation of certain effects for humans and animals.
The wide variety of organic and inorganic chemicals of anthropogenic (industry, regulated products, consumer goods) and natural (toxins) origin, the range of potential health effects, and the ecosystems of these substances, alone or in mixtures, are all currently challenges in the area of risk assessment.
Under the European Green Deal, a chemicals strategy is being implemented to move towards safer and more sustainable chemicals, including in the design stage, and to reduce the use of substances of concern. ANSES's teams work to carry out these action plans as part of their missions.
To contribute to this European dynamic of reducing substances of concern, the scientific priorities of the Exposure to and toxicology of chemical contaminants cross-cutting strategic theme are to contribute to the development of:
- analytical methods based on the use of novel technologies for the detection, identification and quantification of chemical hazards in water and food, to incorporate them into surveillance and control activities,
- methods for the detection of adverse effects, so they may be implemented as part of the rapid alert system,
- experimental hazard characterisation methods based on in vitro experimentation and their extrapolation to the living world via modelling, for use in the regulatory assessment process,
- new evaluation and testing strategies for risk assessment.
Scientific Director: Emilie Gay
Seven of ANSES's nine laboratories significantly contribute to the Epidemiology and surveillance theme, which brings together around 60 employees and also involves the Agency's departments in charge of risk assessment and the vigilance schemes. Cross-cutting coordination is the responsibility of the theme's Scientific Director, supported by an internal epidemiology coordination and planning committee. Working groups carry out primarily methodological activities.
The roles of ANSES's epidemiologists are to:
- provide scientific and technical support to ANSES's supervisory ministries, partner organisations and risk assessment departments;
- participate in coordinating several surveillance schemes (RESAPATH, Vigimyc, Salmonella, RNOEA, Resumeq, foot-and-mouth disease rapid-response unit);
- provide support to the Agency's National Reference Laboratories, enabling them to carry out their tasks of collecting, processing, facilitating access to, transmitting and disseminating epidemiological surveillance data (in accordance with Order No 2015-1242 of 7 October 2015 on the organisation of surveillance concerning animal health, plant health and food safety);
- contribute to the three national epidemiological surveillance platforms (animal health, plant health and food-chain safety) in coordination teams, operational teams and working groups;
- promote the Agency’s work by producing articles for the Bulletin Epidémiologique on Animal Health - Food Safety published by ANSES and the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), in particular the annual health reviews on the surveillance of regulated diseases in animal health, and the surveillance and control plans for food-chain safety;
- carry out specific research work supporting these various activities.
These research activities focus on three themes: monitoring, describing and explaining, and studying the spread of health hazards. Methodological advances play a major role in this, through syndromic surveillance (detection of syndromes indicative of an animal epidemic), detection and alert systems, statistical and mathematical modelling, multi-scale and multi-host systems, contact networks, multi-criteria analyses, etc. The scope of application is very broad and includes diseases, pests, regulated, emerging or re-emerging hazards, zoonoses, diseases of major economic importance for sectors, pharmaco-epidemiology, and biosafety.
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