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Dr Fabian Leendertz honoured as one of six Champions of the Earth 2020 by UNEP

Dr Fabian Leendertz, an RKI veterinarian and microbiologist focusing on emerging zoonoses, has been named the 2020 Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Fabian Leendertz has led ground-breaking investigations into pathogens like Anthrax and Ebola, exploring how the contagions jump between animals and humans – and vice versa. He led a group of researchers who tracked a 2014 outbreak of Ebola back to a bat-filled tree in Guinea. At the moment, he is focusing on COVID-19 and will be part of a coming WHO mission searching for the source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

„Animal and human health and the environment are closely connected. Understanding and preventing zoonotic transmission – i.e. the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and vice versa, as can also be seen in SARS-CoV-2 – is crucial for global health protection in our days,” says Prof. Lothar H. Wieler, president oft he Robert Koch Institute. “For many years, Dr Leendertz has been investigating those mechanisms at the animal-human interface in one of the world’s hotspots for emerging diseases: the tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Together with local partners, he has led many ground-breaking studies – such as identifying the very likely source of the deadly 2014 West African Ebola epidemic. I’m happy and proud that Dr Leendertz is named the “Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation 2020” by UN Environment Programme. This award highlights Dr Leendertz’ achievements and the importance of zoonotic research in general, which is all RKI research stands for: keeping an open mind and a broad view, overcoming borders, creating evidence, identifying risks and protecting the health of all people.”

According to UNEP, “the Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honour, annually recognizing outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector. The Champions of the Earth inspire, defend, mobilize and act to tackle the greatest environmental challenges of our time.” Fabian Leendertz is one of six laureates announced by UNEP in December 2020.

Date: 15.12.2020