We need innovative technologies to fight emerging infectious diseases
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many lives and caused great pain to our society. Vaccine approval and vaccination have begun in some countries. However, we are beset with moments of hopelessness and we still have a long and difficult path to end this issue. I would like to express our deepest condolences for the sacrifices made by so many, and our respect and gratitude to the healthcare professionals and those who support the social infrastructure.
I have been engaged in food safety and infectious disease control since I joined the Government of Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. In Japan, we experienced large-scale food poisoning caused by EHEC at a school in 1995, and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), so-called ‘mad cow disease’, in 1996 and later. Learning from those events, the Food Safety Commission, an independent organization that conducts risk assessment, was established. I believe that similar efforts have been made in many countries to create a scientific approach system for food safety and it has brought great benefits to our society.
In the field of infectious diseases, we experienced Ebola virus infection, SARS / MERS, and the outbreak of new influenza in 2008. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the laws related to infectious disease control were amended and enforced to enhance the effectiveness of counter measures. Today, there is still some space to build a mechanism in which science and technology contribute to infectious disease control in our society.
The global epidemic of COVID-19 reminds us of the usefulness of scientific knowledge and technologies, as well as the importance of research and development. On the other hand, it has also made us recognize that the science and technology we had at the time of the outbreak were completely insufficient to address this emerging infectious disease and its pandemic.
Many technologies, such as genome analysis, vaccine production (for example mRNA applied vaccine), and structural analysis, and the knowledge and results obtained by applying them, have contributed significantly to the counter measures against COVID-19. Digital technology in general also contributed to maintaining communication during the strict behavioral restrictions in our community. We thank our predecessors who have developed and applied these technologies and recognize the importance of further efforts in their development to contribute to society in the future.
The new coronavirus infection has made us aware that we face a great many challenges. For example, various pathological conditions after the acute phase may indicate the need for a completely different approach in infectious disease research and development. And the social and economic aspects of this pandemic are greatly impacting our communities.
How about starting an initiative to develop an innovative, technological approach to ending this pandemic to counter emerging infectious diseases? Such an initiative would increase the number of young researchers in the field of infectious disease research and development, foster innovative approaches to infectious diseases with new ideas and initiatives through international collaboration in different fields, and advance scientific knowledge to fight emerging infectious diseases. I would like to see progress in the creation of innovative technologies that can contribute to these ends. I fully support GloPID-R’s role in advancing these efforts.
A word from the GloPID-R chair
A word from the GloPID-R chair
GloPID-R Vision (2021-22)
As I start my term as the Chair of GloPID-R, I have had the honour and privilege to connect with many of our members and partners over the past three months in one-on-one meetings. It is clear from these discussions that now more than ever, our members appreciate the work of GloPID-R in providing a dedicated forum for funders to exchange information, coordinate efforts and discuss mechanisms to facilitate an effective, rapid and equitable research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These joint efforts will remain of utmost importance as we continue to navigate the next phase of pandemic.
Many of our members have also articulated the need to expand and enhance the impact of GloPID-R’s activities. Moving forward, it is my personal aspiration to strengthen and expand GloPID-R’s objectives to support the development of research preparedness activities, to coordinate members and key partners to facilitate rapid and aligned funding of research, and to reinforce GloPID-R’s visibility and capacity for influence. This will allow us to establish research priorities and actions in alignment with key partners, such as WHO, to prevent redundancies in resources, and most importantly, enable GloPID-R members to maximize synergy and build efficiency in the research on pandemic preparedness and response.
Research requires time, effort and resources to plan, build capacity and implement, and a key priority of GloPID-R is to act as a conduit for members to exchange information and communicate with key stakeholders. As such, we will continue to work closely with our members and key partners, including WHO and CEPI, to identify evolving research priorities, gaps and needs for researchers and funders. Furthermore, we have extended our engagement activities to regularly organize knowledge mobilization events such as virtual forums to engage multiple stakeholders and connect researchers with patients, policy makers, regulators, industry partners. We have been making a concentrated effort to promote the work being carried out by GloPID-R and its members and partners by regularly communicating articles in high impact journals and sharing these with our network.
This past year has also highlighted that we need to reflect, learn lessons and make a more concerted effort to improve global research funding coordination. The ongoing pandemic has highlighted again and again the extensive health disparities which exist in health research and the impact these inequities have on the health outcomes of millions around the world. Our global preparedness and response to new or re-emerging threats must inclusively engage everyone. As such, GloPID-R is committed to expanding our membership in LMICs and ensuring that low-resource countries can partner and benefit from research opportunities in an equitable manner. To that end, we will continue to build partnerships such as COVID-Circle to expand and broaden our membership so that it better reflects inclusion of the global community.
Finally, I would like to highlight that GloPID-R endeavors to help its members turn ideas into actions and strengthen their capacity for influence. We are fortunate to have four working groups with participation from active members focused on cross-cutting themes (clinical trials coordination, data sharing, social science forum, LMIC focus), that address common goals we want to accomplish as we move forward as global funders of research. We are always looking for more member participation, so please reach out to us to indicate your interest or if you have other issues of common interest that we should be working on.
I am optimistic that by continuing to forge and nurture relationships with existing and new members and partners, by directing investments towards emerging research priorities and by developing research infrastructure during peacetime, we will cultivate a stronger and united global research community that will not only see us through this pandemic but will ensure that we are better prepared for the next one.