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The US National Institutes of Health outlines lessons learned from Covid-19

The US National Institutes of Health outlines lessons learned from Covid-19

The US National Institutes of Health outlines lessons learned from Covid-19.

These lessons include the need to invest in behavioral research and quicker clinical trials

The US National Institutes of Health has outlined more than a dozen lessons that biomedical researchers should learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. These include the need for more behavioral research and the need to shorten clinical trials.

In a paper published in Science this month, Francis Collins, former director of NIH, stated that one of the main themes of the lessons learned was to resist the temptation to fall back into complacency around pandemic threats.

Collins and his co-authors insisted that we must keep our current focus on pandemic readiness. They stated that there is an urgent need for global surveillance of disease-causing organisms. This requires “substantial resources” to improve.

They also stated that policymakers and research organizations “must invest…now in vaccine development and testing for future pandemic-causing pathogens.”

Science lessons

The authors offered 17 lessons for biomedical researchers, under the headings of “supporting science”, responding when a pandemic virus emerges” or “moving research findings into clinical practice”.

Science lessons included the need for “invest broad” in basic research in areas such as virology and immunology in order to increase knowledge.

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According to the authors, there is a need for immediate public disclosure of research results, greater engagement between communities and researchers, and major investment in behavioral and social sciences to improve crisis management, reduce vaccine hesitancy.

Maria Leptin, president of the European Research Council, made this point last month at Davos’ World Economic Forum.

Pathogen response

The authors highlighted a need for partners from all R&D industries to be involved from the beginning, in order to facilitate rapid and large-scale development and testing of new technologies.

The US National Institutes of Health outlines lessons learned from Covid-19

It is also necessary to reach agreements between research organizations regarding making research data available, rather than prioritizing credit allocation for discoveries. Advanced purchase agreements with biotechnology companies are also required in order to give researchers access data, samples, and products.

Many of these lessons are related to clinical trials. To ensure that trials are fair and convincing for all, the authors suggested that template protocols for trial design be developed that can be used worldwide. They should also include shorter trial time frames and allow for a wider range of participants.

The burden of Covid-19 in the US fell heavily on Black, Hispanic, and American Indian citizens, however, these groups were underrepresented during early vaccine trials.

Translational research

The authors offered three lessons after transferring research from the lab to the clinic.

One was the necessity to involve regulators in translational research “to avoid mistakes that can cost months” in developing treatments.

Other lessons included the need for reliable guidelines to use research results in clinical settings, and the need for quick communication to clarify the provisional nature research findings, especially to communities that are underserved.

The authors concluded their paper by stating that “Perhaps the most valuable lesson Covid-19 has taught society–and society–is the importance to collective effort and continuous investments in basic and applied research.”

By Patsy S. Nielsen

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