Julia Dias (AFN)
Last week (July 1 and 2), the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the second Global Research and Innovation Forum for Covid-19, with the participation of scientists of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). The Forum, that took place online, had the goal of updating what is currently known about the disease and what are the gaps, where research must invest. The final goal is to speed up the development of knowledge on the subject.
The opening of the event was conducted by the WHO chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, who thanked the work groups and the institutions that have participated in the effort, in all regions. She once again emphasized the importance of international cooperation and the WHO’s willingness to continue supporting this effort as a fundamental strategy to fight the pandemic.
Scientists have been working together, sharing methods and data, and meeting for more than four months in nine groups: transmission, human-animal and human-environmental viral interaction; epidemiological studies; characterization and clinical management; prevention and control; vaccines; therapeutic options; ethics for research; and social sciences. Representing Fiocruz, researchers Thiago Moreno (CDTS/Fiocruz), Paula Reges (INI/Fiocruz), and Gustavo Matta (Ensp/Fiocruz) followed the discussions of the groups on therapeutic options, characterization and clinical management, and contributions of social sciences, respectively.
With more than 1,200 participants, including WHO members and scientists, the meeting evaluated the progress made so far. Among these, efforts to come up with a vaccine should be highlighted. According to the WHO, of the more than 150 ongoing vaccine trials, 17 candidates are in an advanced phase. The vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford is the only one already in phase 3 of the clinical trials. This is the vaccine Fiocruz will be producing, according to an agreement announed on June 27. For those attending the meeting, however, it is important that research not be abandoned after one of the candidates is found to be successful.
For the general director of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom, much of the current hopes are based on scientific work, expected to yield anwers to improve interventions and incorporate new alternatives that will make pandemic control more effective. Adhanom emphasized the importance of the meeting and thanked everyone for the progress made since the March meeting, when the first Covid-19 forum took place in Geneva, with the presence of Fiocruz president, Nísia Trindade Lima.
“Since this new disease was detected, we have been following the discoveries and discussions of the international scientific community on Covid-19, attempting to contribute and give the best answers to this serious humanitarian crisis that is currently afflicting us. Events such as this allow us to see how much progress we have made so far and to trace joint strategies in the defense of life, for the accelleration of responses in diagnostics, medicinal drugs and vaccines, and for the strengthening of health systems”, Fiocruz president stated.
The group also revised the most recent date of the WHO Solidarity study, led by Fiocruz in Brazil, and of other studies, both concluded and ongoing, for possible therapeutic options: hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, and dexametasone. They agreed with the need for further essays to test antiviral drugs, immunomodulators, and anti-thrombotic agents, as well as combined therapies, in different stages of the disease.
At the end of the event, a global research roadmap for the next months was designed, with the identification of emergent research issues, main scientific gaps, and new priorities. As a general guideline, scientists raised the need to increase articulation between work groups, emphasis on low- and medium-income countries, equitable access to possible drugs and vaccines, and the application of results in vulnerable communities, in addition to expanding the network with the participation of other organizations that already support the WHO map of research and development.
Among the pathways the research should follow, stood out the continuity of therapeutic and vaccine clinical trials, as well as studies on the intensity and duration of our immune response, the origin of the virus, and its forms of dissemination. Scientists also agreed to advance in research on serologic diagnostic tests and portable diagnostic methods, and integration of research between this area, clinical trials, studies on vaccines and epidemiology. In addition, they also highlighted the importance of developing strategies to improve preparation for new waves and understanding events that can intensify transmission, in order to reduce their risks and also monitor the role played by animals in transmission, once the disease is a zoonosis.
In the field of social sciences, research on community compliance to the use of vaccines, the role played by communities in the mitigation of the pandemic, the role of formal and informal health agents, and the social determinants to be considered in the post-pandemic reconstruction were all considered priorities. The meeting also discussed attention to populations in conflict areas, populations living in humanitarian crisis conditions, and multiple epidemics. Mental health was also highlighted as an important area of research.
The executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, Mike Ryan, joined the great concern in getting to know better the social phenomena in order to understand the dynamics of social interventions, which, at this moment, are an important form of intervention and will continue to be so in the future, as we have learned from other epidemics, such as the ebola.
In addition to the president of Fiocruz and the researchers who have accompanied the research groups, the event was attended by the vice president of Production and Innovation in Health, Marco Krieger, the vice president of Institutional Management and Development, Mário Moreira, the vice president of Research and Biological Collections, Rodrigo Correa, the coordinator of Health Surveillance and Reference Laboratories, Rivaldo Venâncio, the coordinator of Strategies for Regional and National Integration, Wilson Savino, the director of the Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS/Fiocruz), Carlos Morel , the director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases Evandro Chagas (INI/Fiocruz), Valdilea Veloso, the deputy director of INI/Fiocruz, Estevão Nunes, the coordinator of the Covid-19 Observatory, Carlos Machado (Ensp/Fiocruz), the head of the Laboratory of Respiratory Virus and Measles (IOC / Fiocruz), Marilda Siqueira, the researcher of the same lab Paola Resende Silva, the researcher at the Gonçalo Moniz Institute (Fiocruz Bahia) Manoel Barral, and the international relations advisers Luiz Augusto Galvão (Cris/Fiocruz) and Luana Bermudez.