Stronger together: Coordinated efforts against pandemics
The scientific community is expected to be prepared for and react promptly to emerging diseases by funding research and development. But to do so, it needs the unyielding and coordinated support from funding organisations. GloPID-R, an EU-funded global network, leads the way in helping ensure that the fight against all pandemics, present and future, is effective, rapid and leaves no one behind.
© chokniti #335334941, source: stock.adobe.com
Researchers across the world are working hard to counter epidemics, most recently by devising a vaccine against COVID-19. But time is of the essence. Only an orderly march, supported by cohesive research funding strategies at the global scale, can ensure a quick success. Such coordination has been the duty of an international network of major research funders called GloPID-R since 2014.
GloPID-R has one major role: to coordinate funding organisations on a global scale to enhance research preparedness and facilitate an effective and rapid response to infectious epidemic or pandemic diseases. When research gaps are identified, the network coordinates and facilitates a rapid and effective research response. Whereas global research efforts used to work in silos, GloPID-R strives to enable global coordination. It aims to ensure that every cent is well spent, without counterproductive overlaps and, ultimately, with a faster and more effective response.
Since its creation GloPID-R has been first in line when it comes to preparing for and responding to outbreaks, from the Chikungunya and Zika viruses in Latin America to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But lately it has become instrumental in the fight against COVID-19.
Emerging pathogens are becoming more frequent and invasive, says Richard Vaux, project leader of GloPID-R and coordinator of the GloPID-R-Sec project the Secretariat which supports the GloPID-R network. From 2016 to 2019, we saw Zika, yellow fever, the plague, Ebola and Lassa fever affecting mainly the southern hemisphere. But with COVID-19 affecting people worldwide, we have yet another demonstration that investing in research preparedness is a must.
A worldwide, coordinated response
As soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) was first informed of suspicious pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, China, GloPID-R members and other major players gathered to identify research priorities to tackle the disease. They started by identifying ongoing research projects which could further the understanding of this (re)emerging infectious disease. They then identified research needs, which provided the basis for launching new emergency calls for funding.
We have been working in close cooperation with the WHO since early January 2020. Besides coordinating our members with fast track funding capacities, we also held the Global research and innovation forum on the novel coronavirus together with the WHO at their Geneva headquarters in mid-February. The forum led to the coordinated Global Research Roadmap for COVID-19 which specifies priorities in all thematic areas, Vaux explains.
In April, GloPID-R and the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) jointly released a live tracker listing all research projects on COVID-19. The tracker is meant to help researchers and funders identify gaps and opportunities, as well as to inform future investment and coordination needs.
The EU funding for the GloPID-R Secretariat has recently been renewed until 2022. It will keep connecting GloPID-R members with relevant research stakeholders until then. It will also develop future strategies for stronger coordination of research funding on emerging epidemics as well as raise public awareness about research preparedness and response.
The network has already evolved considerably since the GloPID-R-Sec project started in 2015. It now brings together 29 members and two observers and has established procedures for response plans and the assessment of research gaps. A revised strategy to reinforce involvement was also developed in 2019.
As the only alliance of its kind, GloPID-R surely sets an example for the future of research funding. Its efforts contribute to ensuring that the fight against all pandemics, present and future, is effective, rapid and leaves no one behind.