Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The global research community asks for the right research in the right places for COVID-19. The Global Health Network, the African Academy of Sciences and UK Collaborative on Development Research release a report in Nature that calls for the use of research evidence on the optimal implementation of public health interventions for COVID-19 in varied global settings.

A hand holding a world map

In the absence of a vaccine and community-based treatment we are reliant on public health measures to stop this pandemic. From how to implement social distancing in urban informal settlements to how to gain trust and mitigate myths within communities. There is a clear and urgent need to further understand COVID-19.

The Global Health Network (TGHN), the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) have published findings of a global study to establish what are the remaining research priorities for COVID-19 and whether they are the same across the globe. A peer reviewed paper reporting these data has just been accepted for publication by BMJ Global, with a global perspective on this also being reported in Nature, today.

There is a finite window to undertake research within an outbreak. Scientists and researchers around the world have worked rapidly to increase understanding of COVID-19. But there are still many unknowns as the pandemic accelerates and spreads into new areas. Different studies are needed across the globe and the evidence must be tailored for different settings with the benefits from the research being equitable and widely accessible.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) produced a roadmap that set out the research priorities following a meeting in February, just before COVID-19 was declared a Pandemic. Now, at this point in the evolution of this novel disease across the world, it is important to assess whether these priorities are still current and whether they are the same for all types of communities and health care settings

GHN, AAS and UKCDR undertook an online survey and held a series of workshops, where researchers representing all WHO regions were able to rank research questions, and identify new ones that need to be tackled within their health care setting and communities, mitigating this and future pandemics.

With contributions from over 3,000 healthcare workers and researchers, the results show that the global research community supports the existing WHO Roadmap, but strongly calls out areas where more focus is needed and where new priorities have emerged, particularly from low-resourced settings.

The results demonstrate there is a need for evidence on the relative effectiveness and optimal implementation of public health interventions in varied global settings. Study participants explained how they need data to show when and how best to implement social distancing, for example, in urban informal settlements where families are sharing limited sanitation facilities.  

Another clear priority is to understand better how to gain community trust and mitigate myths, to understand the impact on already present diseases within communities and to explore the ethics of research during a pandemic.  

Professor Trudie Lang, Director of The Global Health Network

“Less than 1% of the clinical trials registered across the globe are in low-income countries. This is a global pandemic and we need to ensure that we embed research everywhere COVID-19 is, so there is equitable benefit from the evidence, and that we tackled this together as a global research community. We also need to ensure the whole spectrum of research needed is able to access funding and attention so that all the remaining questions are answered. We have one opportunity to answer these for next time – and we still need urgent data to tackle this in every country”

Moses Alobo, Programme Manager of Grand Challenges Africa, African Academy of Sciences

“Our goal is to ensure that governments and other stakeholders have the necessary evidence to quickly identify and respond to areas in most need of attention, especially for Africa where resources are constrained.

Marta Tufet, Executive Director, UKCDR

“Given COVID-19 is now being tackled in very different contexts across the world, understanding whether global research priorities are applicable at local level is key to ensure funding is directed to where the need is. We hope this more current perspective of what research gaps remain can be efficiently leveraged by global research funders to meet these priorities with greater coordination.”

Download the report

Update: Research and Development Goals for COVID-19 In Africa

Nature article published today: Plug COVID-19 Research gaps

The Remaining unknowns available as a pre-print version

Similar stories

Risks of serious adverse events following treatment for visceral leishmaniasis

OCGHR Publication Research

This large-scale systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to collate all reported serious adverse events in visceral leishmaniasis clinical trials and quantify the incidence of mortality during the first 30 days of therapy. The analyses, which included clinical data from more than 35,000 patients, found that mortality following treatment was an extremely rare event and serious adverse events following treatments were poorly reported.

The RECOVERY Trial: One year on

OCGHR Research

The Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY (RECOVERY) trial was officially launched on 23 March 2020. It is the world's largest COVID-19 drug trial. Thanks to the ground-breaking work of RECOVERY, clinicians treating patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 now have two treatments that are known to improve survival.

Researchers call for access to Ivermectin for young children

OCGHR Publication Research

Millions of children weighing less than 15kg are currently denied access to Ivermectin treatment due to insufficient safety data being available to support a change to the current label indication. The WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network’s new meta-analysis provides evidence that supports removing this barrier and improving treatment equity.

Gender imbalance in visceral leishmaniasis clinical trials

OCGHR Publication Research

Researchers have found that despite an ongoing trend for a decreasing proportion of males being enrolled in antileishmanial therapeutic efficacy trials over time, there are still 1.8 times as many males as females involved in clinical trials. A new systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that existing knowledge on drug efficacy is derived from a study population that is heavily skewed towards adult males. At the same time, substantially less is known about the optimal treatment response in female patients.

New report highlights growing concern of vaccine falsification

MORU OCGHR

The Medicine Quality Research Group has published a new Medical Product Quality Report focussing on increasing issues around substandard and falsified (SF) COVID-19 vaccines. With the implementation of the key innovations of COVID-19 vaccines, there have been growing numbers of reports of SF vaccines in the public domain. Given the vital role they will play in ending the pandemic and protecting the global population but severe issues with equitable access, SF vaccines are highly likely to be a growing problem.

RECOVERY trial closes recruitment to colchicine treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19

OCGHR Research

Established to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, the RECOVERY trial has included a comparison of colchicine, an anti-inflammatory drug that is commonly used to treat gout, vs. usual care alone. There has been no convincing evidence of the effect of colchicine on clinical outcomes in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, and recruitment to the colchicine arm of the RECOVERY trial has now closed. Recruitment to all other treatment arms – aspirin, baricitinib, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, and dimethyl fumarate – continues as planned.