By Oluwafunke Ishola
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it will convene a global research and innovation forum to mobilise international action in response to the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The information is in a statement posted on WHO website on Thursday, indicating that the meeting is expected to produce global research agenda for the 2019-nCoV.
It stated that the meeting is also expected to set priorities and framework that will guide which projects are undertaken first.
The information quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, as saying that “harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing the outbreak under control.
“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.”
Ghebreyesus said that the meeting, to be held on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 in Geneva, was organised in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness.
The health agency said the meeting would converge key players, including leading scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders pursuing 2019-nCoV critical animal health and public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.
“Participants will discuss several areas of research, including 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 to accelerate scientific information and medical products most needed to minimise the impact of the 2019-nCoV outbreak,” it said.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, said: “Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective countermeasures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimise the economic impact.”
WHO noted further that it would 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.
Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said that WHO Research and Development Blueprint was a global strategy and preparedness platform that drove coordinated development of drugs and vaccines before epidemics.
Ryan said it also allowed rapid activation of research and development activities during epidemics.
“It speeds up the availability of diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and technologies that ultimately save lives,” Ryan said in the statement.
WHO stressed that setting clear global research priorities for the novel coronavirus should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers. (NAN)