Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, coordination of an inclusive global research response remains limited. While there has been important leadership in COVID-19 research in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), most COVID-19 research globally focuses on the issues of greatest importance in high-income countries.
An article published today in The Lancet, ‘COVID-19 research response and preparedness in low-resource settings: urgent priorities’, outlines what is needed for a more effective and truly global research response to the pandemic.
The article summarizes the conclusions of researchers and funders in a recent virtual meeting, ‘COVID-19 Research in Low- and Middle-income Countries’. The authors highlight barriers to funding and implementing research in low-resource settings during the pandemic, and the need for greater domestic and international mobilization of resources and research coordination.
Critical research gaps remain, including:
- Clinical research on affordable, available, deployable tools to diagnose, treat and prevent COVID-19 in low-resource settings,
- Assessment of direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on public health and health systems,
- Strengthening of disease surveillance, biobanking and sequencing capacity, and
- Interdisciplinary research that takes a “One Health” approach.
The authors propose a framework that links these areas with private sector R&D and additional cross-cutting issues such as community-centred approaches, data sharing, and rapid funding mechanisms, as well as pandemic prediction capacities.
The ‘COVID-19 Research in Low- and Middle-income Countries’ meeting was organised in late March 2021 by the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R), the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR), and the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition, bringing together global research funders, including those who are funding research on COVID-19 in LMICs, with researchers who are actively undertaking this research in LMICs.
‘GloPID-R is excited to move this agenda forward through its LMIC funder working group and through an ongoing drive to expand regional membership and improve collaboration and cohesion of research funding preparedness and response,’ said Prof. Charles Wiysonge, GloPID-R Vice Chair, South Africa.
‘Through our COVID-19 research mapping and analysis work we see that investment in COVID-19 research has slowed,’ said Dr Alice Norton, Head of COVID CIRCLE at UKCDR, and corresponding author. ‘This means we must now focus our efforts on the outstanding gaps in research efforts which remain in low-resource settings. This requires supporting regionally identified priorities through listening to the voices of local researchers.‘
‘UKCDR will take this agenda forward through its Epidemics Preparedness and Response Group and Strategic Coherence for ODA Research (SCOR) Board to inform decision making and ensure strategic coherence,’ said Dr Marta Tufet, Executive Director, UKCDR.
‘Scientists and clinicians in low- and middle-income countries have had too little influence on global research priority-setting during the pandemic and too little support,’ said Prof. Helen Rees, a Steering Committee member of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition, South Africa. ‘We need to change this for many excellent reasons – most importantly, an end to this pandemic and the beginning of genuinely global health informed by sustained biomedical research excellence in all countries.‘
‘Ending this pandemic will require genuinely global collaboration and a streamlined approach to research prioritization and funding,’ said Prof. Nick White, Steering Committee chair for the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition. ‘We need targeted, high-quality research led by scientists and clinicians in low-resource settings to answer urgent questions of relevance in those settings.’
Read The Lancet Commentary ‘Priorities for COVID-19 research response and preparedness in low-resource settings’
The Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness is an international alliance of 29 funding organizations and 3 observers (WHO, CEPI, EDCTP). GloPID-R facilitates coordinated research related to new and emerging infectious diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential by supporting research preparedness and rapid response to outbreaks, promoting collaboration and coordination among funders based on common goals and principles, and identifying gaps to align funding with research needs, especially in LMICs.
The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) is a group of UK government departments and research funders working in international development research.
UKCDR exists to amplify the value and impact of research for global development by promoting coherence, collaboration and joint action among UK research funders. UKCDR is governed by the Strategic Coherence of ODA-funded Research (SCOR) Board.
About COVID CIRCLE
UKCDR and GloPID-R partnered in 2020 to establish the COVID-19 Research Coordination and Learning Initiative (COVID CIRCLE) to align and strengthen the research response in, with and for LMICs.
About the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition
The COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition brings together individuals and institutions working to accelerate COVID-19 research that will provide evidence on COVID-19 prevention, diagnosis, and case management in resource-limited settings. The coalition was created by DNDi, the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, and the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO). DNDi hosts the coalition’s secretariat.
A not-for-profit research and development organization, DNDi works to deliver new treatments for neglected patients, those living with Chagas disease, sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis), leishmaniasis, filarial infections, mycetoma, paediatric HIV, and hepatitis C. DNDi is also coordinating the ANTICOV clinical trial to find treatments for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases in Africa. DNDi hosts the secretariat of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition.
Nicole Huxley (UK)
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Frédéric Ojardias (Switzerland)
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Mary Shaffer (France)
Photo credit: Xavier Vahed-DNDi