WHO to hold forum to boost international efforts vs nCoV
A hospital employee dons protective gear inside the holding area for patients suspected of being infected with a deadly SARS-life virus which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, at the Manila Doctors Hospital compound in Manila on January 31, 2020. The Philippines reported its first case of the virus on January 30, a 38-year-old woman who arrived from Wuhan and is no longer showing symptoms.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

WHO to hold forum to boost international efforts vs nCoV

Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - February 7, 2020 - 11:20am

MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization is set to convene a global research and development forum to bolster the international response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease outbreak.

"Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control...There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible,” Director-General doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a release dated Friday locally.

Organized with the help of the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness, the forum will be convened on February 11 to 12 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The forum will invite key figures like leading scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders who are currently working on public health and animal health research, as well as developing vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other innovations in response to the 2019 nCoV ARD threat.

“WHO is playing an important coordinating role by bringing the scientific community together to identify research priorities and accelerate progress,” Ghebreyesus said.

The participating experts aim to address knowledge gaps and build on existing research on prominent coronaviruses SARS and MERS, hoping to accelerate findings like scientific information and medical products that are necessary to control the outbreak and its impacts.

Areas of discussion will include identifying the source of the virus and the sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

“Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective counter-measures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimize the economic impact,” WHO Chief Scientist doctor Soumya Swaminathan said.

The initiative is also planned to fast-track the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines evaluated to be effective, affordable, and accessible even to vulnerable populations.

There are at least 28,276 confirmed global cases of the 2019-nCoV ARD, including 216 cases in 24 countries outside of China, according to the latest WHO situational report.

Last week, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in response to the outbreak of the newly-discovered coronavirus.

The PHEIC was previously declared for viruses like H1N1 (Swine Flu) in 2009, Polio in 2014, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2015, and most recently in 2019 for the Kivu Ebola epidemic.

“The WHO R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness platform that drives coordinated development of drugs and vaccines before epidemics, and allows the rapid activation of R&D activities during epidemics,” doctor Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said.

“It speeds up the availability of the diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and technologies that ultimately save lives.”

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