Worldwide scientists unites to research on COVID-19

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Three potential coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccines are kept in a tray at Novavax labs in Rockville, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization held a two half-day virtual summit on 1 and 2 July, to take stock of the evolving science on COVID-19 and examine progress made so far in developing effective health tools to improve the global response to the pandemic.

The event brought together researchers, developers and funders from all over the world, all of whom shared approaches and raw data freely, in a show of solidarity from the global science community. All major research institutes carrying out trials shared their data with a view to speeding up scientific discovery and implementation of solutions.

The group reviewed the latest data from the WHO Solidarity Trial and other completed and ongoing trials for potential therapeutics: hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, remdesivir and dexamethasone. They agreed on the need for more trials to test antivirals, immunomodulatory drugs and anti-thrombotic agents, as well as combination therapies, at different stages of the disease.

The meeting analyzed 15 vaccine trial designs from different developers, and criteria for conducting robust trials to assess safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates. Participants discussed the use of a global, multi country, adaptive trial design, with a common DSMB, and clear criteria to advance candidates through the various stages of trials.

They noted that most internationally funded research projects have so far favoured high-income countries, with very few funded in low- and middle-income countries, highlighting the importance of the ACT-Accelerator Initiative to speed up the development and equitable deployment of COVID-19 tools.

More evidence is emerging that transmission from humans to animals is occurring, namely to felines (including tigers), dogs and minks.

The Summit hosted over 1000 researchers and scientists from all over the world and addressed the following topics:

virus: natural history, transmission and diagnostics;
animal and environmental research on the virus origin, and management measures at the human-animal interface;
epidemiological studies;
clinical characterization and management;
infection prevention and control, including health care workers' protection;
candidate therapeutics R&D;
candidate vaccines R&D;
ethical considerations for research and;
integrating social sciences in the outbreak response.

Background

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, WHO has brought together the world’s scientists and health professionals to accelerate understanding of the novel coronavirus and expedite research and development to find solutions to the pandemic.

WHO has been gathering the latest international multilingual scientific findings and knowledge on a COVID-19 data base, and is running an international therapeutics trial – the Solidarity trial.

As of 1 July 2020, nearly 5500 patients in 39 countries had been recruited into the trial. Overall, over 100 countries in all 6 WHO regions have joined or expressed an interest in joining the trial, and WHO is actively supporting them with:

ethical and regulatory approvals of the WHO core protocol;
identification of hospitals participating in the trial;
training of hospital clinicians on the web-based randomization and data system;
shipping the trial drugs as requested by each participating country.

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