The current COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, but the global response draws on the lessons learned from other disease outbreaks over the past several decades.
As part of WHO’s response, the R&D Blueprint was activated to accelerate diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for this novel coronavirus. The Blueprint aims to improve coordination between scientists and global health professionals, accelerate the research and development process, and develop new norms and standards to learn from and improve upon the global response.
On 30 January 2020, following the recommendations of the Emergency Committee, the WHO Director-General declared that the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
World scientists on COVID-19 then met at the World Health Organization’s Geneva headquarters on 11–12 February 2020 to assess the current level of knowledge about the new virus, agree on critical research questions that need to be answered urgently, and to find ways to work together to accelerate and fund priority research to curtail this outbreak and prepare for those in the future.
The discussion led to an agreement on two main goals. The first was to accelerate innovative research to help contain the spread of the epidemic and facilitate care for those affected. The second was to support research priorities that contribute to global research platforms in hopes of learning from the current pandemic response to better prepare for the next unforeseen epidemic.
Building on the response to recent outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, the R&D Blueprint has facilitated a coordinated and accelerated response to COVID-19, including an unprecedented program to develop a vaccine, research into potential pharmaceutical treatments and strengthened channels for information sharing between countries.