The emergence and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus took the whole world by surprise. It soon became clear that this was a global health emergency that would require unprecedented action on many fronts. Key to the response was science: we needed to find out how this new disease affected people and how to stop it. Speed was essential, and research teams around the world wasted no time in getting to work.
One of these involves Moderna. More programmes soon follow.
Scientists and policy makers assess what they know about the virus and identify research priorities. A call for international funding to support this work follows.
Devin Sok, Senior Director, Antibody Discovery and Development, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
For me, the recognition of scientists as first responders is really important. I witnessed all the scientists here working endless hours, every day, in the height of this pandemic when there was so much uncertainty. We didn’t know how susceptible we were, we didn’t know how to prevent catching it, but we showed up every day.
As the spread of disease accelerated, so did the research effort. Major global collaborations were set up so that scientists could share their expertise, and plans were implemented to speed up clinical trials processes so that treatments, vaccines and diagnostics could be tested as quickly as possible, without compromising the safety of the participants. All this work needed funding, so governments, businesses and philanthropic organisations got together to start committing resources.
Funded by Wellcome, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard.
Thousands of Covid-19 patients in the UK are enrolled.
This global collaboration will support development of Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.
Global leaders also commit to making sure that any Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests will be equitably accessible across the world.
Charlotte Summers, Clinician and Lecturer in Intensive Care Medicine, University of Cambridge
The biggest successes that have come this year have been about team working and people putting the right outcome ahead of individual glory. People actually being focused on delivering a meaningful goal and working collectively as a team, whether that’s across a nation, across a continent or across a world, has been one of the biggest successes of this pandemic.
The accelerated research programmes started producing evidence faster than would have been possible even a few years ago. Some of these findings were positive about what worked and others negative, but all this new knowledge was crucial to show researchers and healthcare systems where to concentrate their work. Meanwhile, international collaborations were developing policies to make sure the eventual results of research could be delivered to people worldwide, quickly and equitably.
Within three weeks, ACT-Accelerator secures access to 2.9m treatment courses for low- and middle-income countries.
Robin Shattock, Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity, Imperial College London
It's certainly shown that things can be done quickly. And that the quality of the science is what's allowed that to happen. There is obviously a caveat that we still need to build confidence and trust, that speed doesn't mean shortcuts, it doesn't mean a lack of quality.
The flow of potentially lifesaving discoveries continued. Even though the need was urgent, the clinical trials had to be conducted carefully and rigorously to make sure the participants were safe and the results were reliable. But researchers proved themselves able to make progress at record speed without making undue haste. More and more countries agreed on the need to make the results of these discoveries accessible to all, although the supply of funding to make this happen remained a crucial concern.
Global leaders renew their commitment to produce and distribute treatments, tests and vaccines equitably across the globe.
Resumes 4 days later.
This is the ACT-Accelerator's COVAX initiative.
Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines Programme, Wellcome
Vaccines are just one tool for dealing with pandemics, a very effective tool, and alongside therapeutics, effective testing and public health measures of wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing, vaccines will help us to begin to return to a sense of normality, but we need a holistic approach.
More studies provided vital information about what does and doesn’t work to treat Covid-19, and a string of excellent results from vaccine trials brought hope that the pandemic could soon be at an end. Never before in the history of medical science has such extraordinary progress been made, against a disease that the world had never heard of a mere 11 months ago.
Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir-ritonavir and interferon have "little or no effect" on mortality or disease progression among hospitalised patients.
Results suggest a different dosing regimen could give 90% effectiveness.
The UK authorises it for use, and vaccination starts less than a week later.
Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome
We have looked into the abyss of nationalism over the last five or ten years, and I think 2020 will be the year when we realise that is just not an option. And that international partnerships and collaboration are the only way to address these great challenges of the 21st century.
We mustn’t get overconfident after the good news on vaccines. It will still take a lot of work – and resources – to get billions of doses distributed around the world. While that happens, Covid-19 will continue to claim thousands of lives a day well into 2021.
This means it’s essential to keep up the research effort on finding better ways to treat Covid-19. And it’s essential to build the political will and infrastructure to make sure everyone in the world, rich and poor alike, can reap the benefits of the tremendous work science has achieved.
The work will need more funding. But we can be more confident than ever before that this funding will deliver results. 2020 will go down in history as the year of the pandemic. And 2021 can be the year we beat it.
Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome
We must deliver on the benefits of the scientific advances of 2020. We must deliver those to everybody in the world, wherever they are. And we must not create a more unequal world. We've talked about that – countries, scientists, philanthropists, funders – everybody has committed to that, and 2021 is the year we need to be held accountable to do that.