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New cross-government research response to tackle COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries

Published: 18 May 2020

The NIHR has launched a new call for global health research to tackle COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The new cross-government call will use UK aid funds to support applied health research to understand the pandemic and mitigate its health impacts in LMICs.

The new Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research funding call will focus on four priority COVID-19 research topics highlighted by the World Health Organization: epidemiology; clinical management; infection prevention and control; and social sciences in the outbreak response.

As well as research addressing the direct impacts of COVID-19, the call also seeks to fund projects investigating the indirect consequences of the pandemic on health issues, such as mental health, domestic violence, and maternal and neonatal health.

Funding awards of up to £1 million will be available for rapid (18-months’ duration) projects led by researchers in LMICs where the research is proposed to be conducted or by researchers in the UK.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and NIHR co-lead, said: “COVID-19 is a global problem. This important call for research will directly benefit people living in low- and middle-income countries. The virus presents different challenges in different settings, so research is needed across these settings. Unless we address COVID-19 globally, we will not reduce it to a manageable level as a global public health issue." 

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI’s International Champion, said: “This joint global health call is a vital opportunity for researchers from around the world to work together, combining their expertise and regional knowledge, to find urgent solutions to manage COVID-19 in all settings and health care systems.” 

In parallel to this health-focused activity, UKRI is funding research on the broader impacts of COVID-19 in LMICs, such as societal and economic impacts.

The NIHR is also supporting a number of other funding calls with global partners focusing on COVID-19 research in LMICs. The NIHR has contributed to efforts by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation to fund and coordinate vaccines research, and to an emergency call for research in sub-Saharan Africa and capacity strengthening for pandemic responses through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.

In addition, the NIHR is working with the Department for International Development on a rapid response research call through its Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) partnership, to support the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings.

The NIHR and UKRI have a rolling call for proposals for research into COVID-19 open to UK-led groups (academics, NHS organisations, small and medium enterprises and government arms length bodies). The call is seeking research that will address a wide range of COVID-19 knowledge gaps and that will lead to a benefit to UK, and potentially international, public health within 12 months.

The closing date for the first GECO call was 12:00 (BST), 22 June 2020. 

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