In consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Research Council of Norway will provide up to NOK 100 million in support for measures to fight coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The funding will be allocated, among other things, to the World Health Organization’s trial testing the impact of treatments on the disease and to research of particular relevance to the COVID-19 response in low-income countries.
Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak calls for swift action. At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Research Council has drawn up a number of proposals, which the Ministry has approved. WHO’s large-scale global corona study for rapid assessment of the effect of relevant treatment is one of the measures to be granted support. The first patient to be enrolled in the study started treatment at Oslo University Hospital last weekend.
‘Norway has a longstanding tradition of involvement in global health efforts, and the high-quality scientific framework we have in place means that we are in a good position to make a difference. The fight against coronavirus disease is also a fight to preserve life, health and development in the poorest countries. WHO has a key role to play in these efforts,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.
A wide array of countries, including Norway, are participating in the study. Norwegian hospitals are also taking part. WHO is the formal sponsor, and will be given access by major pharmaceutical companies to the various medications involved to ensure that the countries receive the medications to be used in the study. Chief Executive of the Research Council of Norway John-Arne Røttingen will coordinate the international collaborative effort.
‘I am very pleased that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to support this WHO study. It is essential to conduct research to develop new technology, diagnostics, medications and vaccines, and to test whether these are safe and effective,’ said Dr Røttingen.
Incorporating relevance for low-income countries into the emergency call for proposals
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also expanding the scope of the Research Council’s emergency call for proposals from Norwegian research groups for projects concerning the fight against coronavirus disease. Research projects must be relevant to the response to COVID-19 in low-income countries. Furthermore, the Research Council has been given the freedom to initiate and contribute to initiatives in collaboration with other research funders. These may be major international foundations, such as Wellcome Trust or the Gates Foundation, or public institutions such as research councils in other countries.
‘This decision gives the Research Council a better platform for participating actively and constructively in the international collaboration to fight COVID-19,’ said Dr Røttingen.