Within a few weeks of declaring COVID-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), WHO published a coordinated global research roadmap, identifying the knowledge gaps the world urgently needed scientists to fill to find solutions to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a pivotal document and represented a transparent and globally agreed pathway through which all individuals and organizations involved in the research response could act, and be held to account.
Fourteen months later, research on most of the knowledge gaps has been initiated, is progressing and has provided answers to several of the knowledge gaps identified in the roadmap. Most notably, Research and Development (R&D) has delivered safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines at an unprecedented speed.
In this report, we measure research progress on all the knowledge gaps, identify key R&D achievements and the gaps that still exist.
New COVID-19 research challenges emerge everyday but scientific achievements have already provided answers to several of the knowledge gaps identified in the roadmap and priority research has been done with some achievements. Most notably, Research and Development (R&D) has delivered safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines at an unprecedented speed; this is a triumph for modern science although equitable access remains a challenge.
Research and innovation work has also helped us deliver:
• Rapid diagnostics for use in community settings.
• The identification of optimal protective equipment (PPE) to protect health care staff and the public across the world.
• Evidence-based infection prevention and control (IPC) measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing in health care and community settings.
• Better understanding of likely animal host(s) for the virus. This will help in future efforts to prevent continued spillover to humans.
• Major clinical trials for the evaluation of candidate therapeutics, evaluating a dozen drugs, some of which have proven not to be effective in reducing mortality, and a handful of which have had positive results on cutting deaths.