Laboratory Systems and Public Health in Resource-Limited Settings (LAB-SPHERE)


Well-functioning and sustainable laboratory services are key components of strong health systems and crucial for improving public health and research capacities of countries. This is a 2-week intensive course aimed at describing the role of laboratory systems in strengthening health services and research capacity with a special focus on low and middle-income countries (LMIC). The emphasis is on explaining the structure and functions of laboratory systems and their effective and efficient management. Moreover, areas where laboratory systems overlap and/or complement health systems are being considered. The course uses interactive, simulation-based exercises, as well as laboratory- and computer-based practical sessions to complement the theoretical content.

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) is Germany’s largest institution for research, services and training in the field of tropical diseases and emerging infections. The current scientific focus is on malaria, haemorrhagic fever viruses, tissue nematodes and diagnostics development. To study highly pathogenic viruses and infected insects, the institute is equipped with laboratories of the highest biosafety level (BSL4) and a BSL3 insectary. Outstanding scientific achievements in the recent past include scientific work concerning the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The course will be taught by staff with teaching and research experience extending across the disciplines of epidemiology, microbiology, laboratory medicine, virology, bacteriology, parasitology, entomology, demography and public health. 

Das Bild zeigt eine Kurssituation mit vier Wissenschaftlern, von denen zwei in Sicherheitsanzügen gekleidet sind, die zusammen stehen und diskutieren.
LAB-SPHERE 2021   ©BNITM | Daniela Fusco

Target audience

The course is relevant to health professionals and other graduates, who work in medical research units, academic departments or health services, or who implement health projects in LMIC. Students admitted to a Master's degree programme may also join this course (e.g. tropEd Network).

Entry requirements

No previous formal training in laboratory science and/or medicine is required, however, general knowledge of public health is useful. The course is taught in English. Therefore, a good command of the English language is essential.

Course content

Course objectives

By the end of this module, students should have gained:

  • an understanding of the structure and efficient use of laboratory services within the context of public health and in response to humanitarian emergencies
  • a general awareness of the laboratory management system
  • a basic understanding in tropical infectious and poverty-related diseases
  • an understanding of the development of a strategic plan for setting-up a sustainable laboratory system
  • an appreciation of interdisciplinary cooperation across the fields of laboratory medicine, medical sciences and public health in response to infectious disease threats, natural disasters, war and conflict, and other humanitarian emergencies 


Topics to be covered are expected to include:

  • Introduction to laboratory systems
  • Elements of public health
  • Development of laboratory strategic plans at national, regional, local and mobile levels
  • The role of reference laboratories in the management of the diseases
  • Laboratory management systems
  • Diagnostic vs. research laboratories: health services, basic science and clinical research
  • Biobanking and blood banking
  • Basic epidemiological methods/concepts as relevant for the laboratory in the context of infectious disease threats
  • Infectious disease prevention and control measures

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will inlude lectures, individual- and group-based practical sessions, including case study table top exercises, field operational and biosafety/biosecurity training elements, as well as problem-solving exercises.   

Assessment procedures

Individual assignment: written report on the implementation of a diagnostic strategy in a fictional setting (60%)

Group assignment: power point presentation on the implementation of a diagnostic strategy in a fictional setting (40%)

For general course attendants these assessments are formative (not graded).

A Certificate of Attendance will be awarded to all those completing the course. 

How to apply

Applying for this course

Application period: 01.01.2024 - 31.05.2024

Online application form

Course fee

General admission: 1100 €/900 € (Early Bird Registration)

Citizens of low and middle income countries/Students: 800 €/600 € (Early Bird Registration)

If you are a citizen and resident of a country classified as a low or middle income by the UN/World Bank and/or a tropEd student, you are eligible to the reduced tuition fee rate. Please refer to this document to see whether your country is eligible: Country Classification Map

Early Bird Registration: If you register within 2 weeks of acceptance notification, you are eligible to a reduction of your course fee. 

Course fee includes:

  • course work
  • study materials
  • refreshments
  • social event

Registration fee
The Institute charges a non-refundable registration fee of 200 € (credited towards the whole course fee).

Withdrawal and refund policy
A participant who withdraws from this short course:

  • less than 6 weeks prior to start date: 25% of the course fee will be charged
  • less than 4 weeks prior to start date: 50% of the course fee will be charged
  • less than 2 weeks prior to start date: 100% of the course fee will be charged


In order to attend the course, the participant may be required to obtain a visa or other permissions. We kindly advise to start the application process as early as possible as obtaining a visa for Germany can take time. The Short Courses team can provide supporting documentation if requested, however, it is the participant's responsibility to obtain any visa or other permissions. 


The course fee does not include accommodation. There is a very limited number of guest rooms available for rent at the Institute, which are made available on a first-come-first-served basis. A list of hotels and other accommodation located nearby the BNITM can be found here: List of Hotels  

Key facts

Laboratory Systems and Public Health in Resource-Limited Settings (LAB-SPHERE)
16th to 27th September 2024
This course prepares you to work with Laboratory Systems and Public Health Infrastructures in Resource-Limited Settings.
Course fee
600 € - 1100 €.
This course is accredited by tropEd .
The application for LAB-SPHERE 2024 is open from 1st January until 31st May 2024, midnight CET.
Online application form

Contact person

PhD Daniela Fusco

Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Phone : +49 40 285380-504

Email :