Table 1

Survey results: top three research priorities from the WHO roadmap categories showing less-resourced countries as a subset of the global responses

PriorityImmediateLonger term
Global (n=1528)Less-resourced countries (n=694)Global (n=1528)Less-resourced countries (n=694)
Virus natural history, transmission and diagnostics1Support work to develop cheaper, faster easier to use in field antigen tests (for virus detection)Support development of diagnostics products to improve clinical processes
2Support development of diagnostics products to improve clinical processesDevelopment of cheaper, faster easier to use in field antigen tests (for virus detection)
3Support work to develop cheaper, faster, easier-to-use in field antibody tests (for determining exposure)Characterise immunity (naturally acquired, population and vaccine-induced, including mucosal immunity)Support work to develop cheaper, faster easier to use in field antibody test tests (for determining exposure)
Animal and environmental research on the virus origin, and management measures at the human–animal interface1Improve understanding of socioeconomic and behavioural risk factors for spillover and transmission between animals and humansIdentify animal source and route of transmission (hosts, any evidence of continued spillover to humans and transmission between animals and humans)
2Identify animal source and route of transmission (hosts, any evidence of continued spillover to humans and transmission between animals and humans)Improve understanding of socioeconomic and behavioural risk factors for spillover and transmission between animals and humans
3Design and test suitable risk reduction strategies at the human–animal–environment interface
Epidemiological studies1Describe transmission dynamics of COVID-19 and understand spread of disease nationally, regionally and globally
2Describe disease severity and susceptibility to facilitate effective clinical and public health response to COVID-19— identify groups at high risk of severe infectionEstablish suitable cohorts and prospectively collect longitudinal laboratory and outcome data
3Perform rapid population cross-sectional surveys to establish extent of virus transmission using standardised sampling frameworkDescribe disease severity and susceptibility to facilitate effective clinical and public health response to COVID-19—identify groups at high risk of severe infectionPerform rapid population cross-sectional surveys to establish extent of virus transmission using standardised sampling framework
Clinical management1Determine interventions that improve the clinical outcome of COVID-19-infected patientsDefine the natural history of COVID-19 infection through careful standardised and comprehensive clinical and laboratory description of cases
2Determine optimal clinical practice strategies to improve the processes of care (eg, develop criteria for early diagnosis, when to discharge, when to use adjuvant therapies for patients and contacts)Determine interventions that improve the clinical outcome of COVID-19-infected patients
3Develop protocols for management of severe disease in the absence of intensive care facilitiesDefine the natural history of COVID-19 infection through careful standardised and comprehensive clinical and laboratory description of casesDetermine optimal clinical practice strategies to improve the processes of care (eg, develop criteria for early diagnosis, when to discharge, when to use adjuvant therapies for patients and contacts)
Infection prevention and control, including healthcare workers’ protection1Understand the effectiveness of movement control strategies to prevent secondary transmission in healthcare and community settings
2Optimise the effectiveness of PPE and its use in reducing the risk of transmission in healthcare and community settingsResearch to support health systems strengthening and building of resilience post the outbreakOptimise the effectiveness of PPE and its use in reducing the risk of transmission in healthcare and community settings
3Develop new PPE approaches using local materials and manufacturing processesOptimise the effectiveness of PPE and its use in reducing the risk of transmission in healthcare and community settingsDevelop new PPE approaches using local materials and manufacturing processes
Candidate therapeutics R&D1Develop mechanisms to support coordinated collaboration to implement clinical trials for evaluation of safety/efficacy of therapeutics.Identification of existing candidates for clinical evaluation in addition to the ones already prioritisedDevelop mechanisms to support coordinated collaboration to implement clinical trials for evaluation of safety/efficacy of therapeutics.Support basic science to identify new drug targets
2Support basic science to identify new drug targetsIdentification of existing candidates for clinical evaluation in addition to the ones already prioritised
3Identification of existing candidates for clinical evaluation in addition to the ones already prioritisedDevelop mechanisms to support coordinated collaboration to implement clinical trials for evaluation of safety/efficacy of therapeuticsSupport basic science to identify new drug targetsDevelop mechanisms to support coordinated collaboration to implement clinical trials for evaluation of safety/efficacy of therapeutics
Candidate vaccines R&D1Develop a multicountry Master Protocol for phase IIb/phase 3 vaccine evaluation to determine whether candidate vaccines are safe and effective before widespread distributionCapacity development for basic science and preclinical development of new vaccines
2Capacity development for basic science and preclinical development of new vaccinesDevelop a multicountry Master Protocol for phase IIb/phase III vaccine evaluation to determine whether candidate vaccines are safe and effective before widespread distribution
3Identification of candidates for clinical evaluation in addition to the ones already prioritised.
Ethics considerations for research1Identify key knowledge gaps and research priorities in relation to ethical issues arising out of proposed restrictive public health measures (eg, quarantine, isolation, cordon sanitaire)
2Define a research governance framework that enables effective and ethical collaboration between multiple stakeholders, including WHO, the global research community, subject matter experts, public health officials, funders and ethicists
3Establish processes for speeding up ethical review of COVID-19-related research proposalsSustained education, access and capacity building to facilitate effective cross-working and collaboration across the research thematic areas
Social sciences in the outbreak response1Investigate ways of ensuring transparency of information flow and mitigating false information spread by various mechanismsEnsure that knowledge is produced according to local, national and regional needs
2Ensure that knowledge is produced according to local, national and regional needsPromote the prioritisation of knowledge needs according to epidemic dynamics
3Examine optimal ways of communicating about potential interventions in high-density low socioeconomic status urban settings
  • PPE, personal protective equipment.