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UM researcher part of WHO Declaration on COVID-19

April 14, 2020 — 

On April 13, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a public statement for collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine development. In its release, WHO noted:

As part of WHO’s response to the outbreak, a Research and Development (R&D) Blueprint has been activated to accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for this novel coronavirus.

Under WHO’s coordination, a group of experts with diverse backgrounds is working towards the development of vaccines against COVID-19.

A diverse international group of more than 125 researchers and experts on COVID-19, including ten Canadians, made a declaration on intent and recommendation to work together collaboratively to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis.

The group’s declaration reads in full:

We are scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers who have come together as part of an international collaboration, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), to help speed the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19. While a vaccine for general use takes time to develop, a vaccine may ultimately be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic. In the interim, we applaud the implementation of community intervention measures that reduce spread of the virus and protect people, including vulnerable populations, and pledge to use the time gained by the widespread adoption of such measures to develop a vaccine as rapidly as possible. We will continue efforts to strengthen the unprecedented worldwide collaboration, cooperation and sharing of data already underway. We believe these efforts will help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort, and we will work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all.

Among the signatories to this declaration is Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, infectious disease expert in medical microbiology in the UM Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

Kindrachuk notes: “The purpose of the statement is to show our global unity in the fight against COVID-19 and for working together openly through meeting and collaboration to help identify vaccine candidates as quickly as possible.”

He adds: “This group is a collection of academic, government, industry and clinical researchers from across the globe who are voluntarily serving together as a working group with WHO.”

While a vaccine might still be many months away, Kindrachuk is optimistic that an antiviral therapeutic might be produced within only a few months.

“There are numerous trials that are ongoing for therapeutics right now (such as hydroxychloroquine) including through WHO and at UM,” he says. “Drugs that already have approval for other uses, like hydroxychloroquine or kaletra, are enticing as the time to move them from testing to being deployed in the field is far shorter than developing a new drug. Some of the trials could start yielding results soon and if they look favorable, they will hopefully get approval for at least emergency use for severe COVID-19 patients.”

The WHO Declaration can be found here.

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