NIAID Plan Describes COVID-19 Research Priorities

April 24, 2020
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

A new strategic plan from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, details the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent and treat COVID-19.

A new strategic plan from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, details the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent, and treat COVID-19, the institute announced in an April 23, 2020 press release. The NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research has four key priorities: improving fundamental knowledge, developing diagnostics, researching treatments, and developing vaccines.

According to the NIAID report, the first research priority involves improving fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, including studies to characterize the virus and better understand how it causes infection and disease. This research will include natural history, transmission, and surveillance studies; the role of asymptomatic individuals in viral spread; and the potential seasonality of viral circulation. 

NIAID’s second research priority is the development of rapid, accurate diagnostics and assays to identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and track the spread of the virus. Researchers will work to improve the speed and accuracy of these diagnostic assays and develop new and improved serologic assays to detect antibodies to the virus.

The third research priority is characterizing and testing potential treatments for COVID-19. These efforts will include identifying and evaluating drugs already approved for other conditions that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19 and testing novel broad-spectrum antivirals, such as remdesivir; virus-targeted antibody-based therapies; monoclonal antibodies; and host-directed strategies to target an individual’s immune response to the virus. To optimize findings during the pandemic, multiple clinical trials will be conducted in parallel among various patient populations, including hospitalized people and outpatients, the institute reported.

NIAID’s fourth research priority is to develop safe and effective vaccines. Researchers are looking at approaches previously employed to address the related Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronaviruses. NIAID will use its broad clinical trial infrastructure to advance experimental vaccines through Phase 1 safety and dosing testing and simultaneously plan for advanced clinical testing of the most promising candidates. The institute will work with government partners to ensure that any safe and effective vaccine will be manufactured in sufficient quantities to allow expedient distribution to those at highest risk for infection. 

In the press release, NIAID said it would build on its current resources, research programs, clinical trials networks, and collaborations with other US government agencies and other key US and global partners. The new strategic plan aligns with priorities set by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and represents a comprehensive and coordinated effort to develop effective biomedical tools to combat COVID-19.

Source: NIAID