WHO to accelerate research and innovation for COVID-19

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New Delhi (NVI): The COVID-19 outbreak is a test of solidarity — political, financial and scientific, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said as it convened a global research and innovation forum to mobilize international action in response to the new coronavirus outbreak.

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“There are questions we need answers to, and the tools we need to develop as quickly as possible. WHO is playing an important coordinating role by bringing the scientific community together to identify research priorities and accelerate progress,” he said.

The meeting, hosted in collaboration with GloPID-R (the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness) brought together major research funders and over 300 scientists and researchers from a large variety of disciplines. They discussed all aspects of the outbreak and ways to control it.

Participants discussed several areas of research, including identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

Experts built on existing SARS and MERS believe that coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities in order to accelerate scientific information and medical products most needed to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The meeting is expected to produce a global research agenda for the new coronavirus, setting priorities and frameworks that can guide which projects are undertaken first.

“Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective counter-measures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimize the economic impact,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist said.

This will also fast-track the development and evaluation of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, while establishing mechanisms for affordable access to vulnerable populations and facilitating community engagement.

“The WHO R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness platform that drives coordinated development of drugs and vaccines before epidemics, and allows the rapid activation of R&D activities during epidemics. It speeds up the availability of the diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and technologies that ultimately save lives,” added Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

Setting clear global research priorities for the novel coronavirus should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers.