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WHO takes stock of global COVID-19 R&D progress

Researchers and developers meet virtually to discuss progress


After global deaths caused by COVID-19 topped over half a million, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a virtual summit last week tracking the progress of COVID-19 research and development.

Researchers, developers and funders from across the globe attended the two half-day virtual summit on 1 and 2 July to examine the progress made so far in the development of effective health tools to improve the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of that effort, the group reviewed the most recent data from the WHO Solidarity Trial of four potential COVID-19 treatment options, as well as other completed and ongoing trials evaluating other treatments. That included detailed data on hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, remdesivir and dexamethasone.

The consensus reached by the group is that overall, more trials are needed to test antivirals, immunomodulatory drugs, anti-thrombotic and combination therapies at different stages of disease progression.

The WHO also took the decision to discontinue the Solidarity Trial’s hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir arms following a review of evidence obtained at the interim analysis.

These results showed that neither hydroxychloroquine nor lopinavir/ritonavir significantly reduced the mortality rate of hospitalised COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. There were also some associated safety signals in clinical laboratory findings of the add-on Discovery trial associated with each drug.

On top of the discussions surrounding the research into potential COVID-19 therapies, the group also analysed 15 vaccine trial designs from a number of developers, as well as the criteria for conducting robust trials to assess safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates.

That included taking a look at the use of global, multi country, adaptive trial design with a common data safety monitoring board and clear criteria that would allow candidates to advance seamlessly through various stages of trials.

The group also identified that most internationally funded research projects have tended to favour high-income countries, with few projects funded in low- and middle-income countries so far.

They noted that this disparity highlights the ongoing need for the WHO’s ACT-Accelerator Initiative, which aims to accelerate the development and equal access of COVID-19 therapeutics and health tools.

“This pandemic is a scientific challenge, but it is also a test of character. We must act in the interests of global solidarity and our shared humanity. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the tools to protect themselves, especially those who are most at risk,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing on 1 July.

In addition to the discussion of therapeutic and vaccine development, the summit attendees also discussed the mounting evidence emerging that suggests transmission of the virus from humans to animals is occurring, in particular to felines, dogs and minks.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

6th July 2020

From: Research



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