People behind SAFOSO: Marco De Nardi

March 25, 2021

Who are the people behind SAFOSO? What inspires them and how do they contribute to solving animal health challenges? Marco De Nardi shares his story.

How do you contribute to SAFOSO?

I started working with SAFOSO in 2013. In my current position as senior consultant epidemiologist and science manager, I am involved in different projects in the spheres of epidemiology, risk assessment, antimicrobial resistance, animal health and food safety. Most of my work has a strong basis in epidemiology and public health since these areas have been the focus of my education and training.

The interaction with customers, clients and other stakeholders in the projects is an essential part of my work. This has become a particularly important aspect in recent times since. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the implementation of projects has mostly shifted to a remote mode, and therefore the interaction with clients and other stakeholders has been boosted.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on various projects in technical assistance, capacity building and research. One of the technical assistance projects based in Nepal aims to evaluate and increase the capacity of two national competent authorities to ensure and facilitate safe trade of food products. In collaboration with local authorities, SAFOSO is responsible for the assessment of the two departments with a focus on their institutional and technical components, including the accreditation process of specific food commodities. As part of the technical component, the assessment will ascertain the capacity to collect and analyse data, to conduct risk analyses, and implement adequate surveillance and control strategies in the context of food safety.

One research project I am currently working on aims to assess the risk of UK consumers being exposed to AMR genes through the consumption of certain food items. In this project, we are contributing to developing a stochastic exposure assessment model in collaboration with AusVet Europe, one of our corporate associates. I am also involved in various capacity building projects on risk assessment in Europe, COVID-19 internationally and ASF in South East Asia.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in animal health?

In our work on animal health, the challenges are various, multifaceted, and depend very much on the scale we look at things– from the hazard to a more broad/ holistic scale. I can mention two specific challenges we are currently facing in the veterinary world that are central in my work. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major public health emergency. The inherent use of antimicrobials in intensive animal production plays a big role in the overall AMR picture globally. Reducing the use of antimicrobials is essential, and farmers and competent authorities should define effective strategies to drastically reduce the use of antibiotics while still assuring animal health and welfare. This task is not always straightforward, and AMR is still among the greatest challenges we face every day.

ASF is another priority emergency in the veterinary sector. The ASF pandemic is currently affecting most of the continents with a devastating impact on swine populations, economies and wellbeing of farmers. We have strategies in place to prevent and control the disease, but the most effective weapon, the vaccine, is still not yet available, despite many years of research and huge economic efforts. Therefore, authorities rely very much on farmer responsibility to promptly report outbreaks and put effective biosecurity measures in place to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease on their premises. We assist countries in these challenging tasks.

What inspires you to come to work every day?

Through involvement in quite a few new projects every year, often implemented in various countries, there are always new stimulating challenges to face and many opportunities to learn.  Personally, this is a very strong driving force for me, since the risk of becoming bored or uninterested is really small. I also feel strongly that my work is appreciated by our clients and colleagues which is very rewarding. And, last but not least, the work environment is very friendly and pleasant, something not to be undervalued.

What skills are critical for success in your role?

I think a mix of skills are necessary in my job. Of course, one cannot work in science without the appropriate technical skills, but often, in my position, these are not enough. As already mentioned, the interaction with clients, stakeholders and colleagues is a fundamental part in my job, so soft and communication skills are also necessary (something I am actually trying to improve!).

What has been a highlight in your work for SAFOSO?

In the last few years SAFOSO has implemented and will continue to implement a project on milk safety in Ukraine through 2023.  The project supports public and private stakeholders in establishing a comprehensive, risk-based control system for raw milk safety and quality that aligns national safety requirements with those of the European Union. This project, which is without a doubt one of the more difficult projects in which I am involved, is rich with challenges and, consequently, is also paved with great achievements in the sphere of revised legislations, enhanced technical capacity and strong engagement of stakeholders. Together with the local team, I think we are doing a good job there!

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