WHO to accelerate research, innovation against novel coronavirus outbreak

Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

The World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a global research and innovation forum next week to mobilize international efforts to combat the novel coronavirus, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced at a press conference Thursday.

The forum, to be held here on Feb. 11-12, is organized in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness.

It will bring together key players in critical public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.

Participants, including leading scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders, will discuss such areas of research as identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

Experts will build on existing SARS and MERS coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities, in order to accelerate scientific information and medical products that are most needed to minimize the impact of this novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” said Tedros.

“There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed 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 is expected to produce a global research agenda for the novel coronavirus, setting priorities and frameworks that can guide which projects are undertaken first, which should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers, according to the WHO.

“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,” said Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO chief scientist.

Such understanding will also fast-track the development and evaluation of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, while establishing mechanisms for affordable access to vulnerable populations, said the WHO. Enditem

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