Taking a regional hub approach to improve research funding efficiency
First of all, I would like to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year. Let us all hope that 2022 will finally offer a path back to some sort of normality, even if it would appear that we have started the new year about where we left it in 2021, with our lives still very much determined by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With cases on the rise again in many parts of the world, largely driven by Omicron, and the risk of new variants triggering future waves, GloPID-R must continue to strive for improved coordination and alignment of funding for pandemic response and preparedness.
Amongst many new initiatives in 2022, GloPID-R has embarked on an ambitious project to explore the development of a devolved governance structure by establishing regional hubs. This initiative is based on the recommendations of the GloPID-R Scientific Advisory Group Report, the GloPID-R’s Co-Chairs Recommendations , and the COVID CIRCLE Lessons for Funders Report which outlines the “Seven Funder Principles”.
The overall aim of moving to a regional hub structure is to strengthen GloPID-R’s capacity to function as a meta-organisation to better serve its growing and diverse membership, and to further streamline and improve the efficiency of research funding for pandemic preparedness and response. During extensive consultation and discussion in 2021, it was agreed the regional hub structure would help us to:
- Support the development and strengthening of regional research networks and preparedness platforms, involving local funding agencies
- Facilitate regional research priority setting in advance of future pandemics
- Facilitate sustainable demand-led capacity strengthening aligned with regional needs and gaps
- Strengthen regional capacity for research to policy uptake
- Facilitate the coordination of funding for global preparedness and response via regional nodes
As such significant restructuring is not without risks, GloPID-R launched its first pilot project this year, starting with the Asia-Pacific region, led by Choong-Min Ryu from the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology (KRIBB). The initial phase will focus on identifying and consulting regional funding agencies and relevant stakeholders to assess the level of regional interest in establishing such a GloPID-R hub. This will involve four basic steps:
- Mapping the regional landscape of funding agencies supporting pandemic research
- Conducting an on-line survey across all identified stakeholders
- Establishing an Asia-Pacific Scientific Advisory Group, chaired by Shoji Miyagawa from the Japan Agency for Medical Research & Development (AMED)
- Organising a regional GloPID-R conference during the second half of 2022
This project, potentially a real game changer for the way GloPID-R functions, is designed to last three years, thanks to a generous grant provided by the Korean government. It will be managed collaboratively by KRIBB, AMED, and the GloPID-R Secretariat with input from other GloPID-R members. If successful, this pilot could provide a blueprint for the development of regional hubs in Latin America and Africa.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading the next article where Choong-Min Ryu shares his perspective on the Asia-Pacific pilot project, and the rest of our first newsletter of 2022.
With kind regards,
GloPID-R Scientific & Advocacy Director
A view from the ground on the pilot regional hub project
To explain the beginnings of a GloPID-R hub in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s important to recognize and understand the significance of the potential future occurrence of infectious diseases in the Asia-Pacific region.
This area of the globe brings together the ideal conditions – in terms of climate, geography, demographics and culture – to allow novel pathogens to enter the human population. Compounded by the high population density in many countries of the region, these factors are conducive to the development of local epidemics. More worryingly, pathogens can rapidly spread via the main flight routes from the major hub airports.
In response to this situation, South Korea has been focusing increasingly on infectious disease prevention in Asia. When I was young, I remember strong support from other nations, which has helped South Korea transform from a developing to a developed nation. In 2021, the Korean Government agreed to establish a comprehensive Global Vaccine Partnership to strengthen joint response capabilities to infectious disease threats through international vaccine cooperation. This includes focus areas on the global expansion of vaccine production and related materials, as well as scientific and technological cooperation.
In mid-2021, to provide support for the GloPID-R regional hub, the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT proposed a three-year grant, called the “Asia-Pacific Infectious Disease Shield (APIS)”. At the start of 2022, we were thus able to launch the regional hub pilot project, thanks to this grant and close cooperation among my team, AMED and the GloPID-R Secretariat. As a PI of APIS, I am pleased to be able to count on this essential collaboration to drive the project as it develops and gains momentum in 2022.
Initially, our main objective will be to listen to voices on the ground, rather than applying a top-down approach. Our team is carefully preparing mapping-surveying procedures and contacting experts. I hope that by working together under the umbrella of GloPID-R coordination, all member countries in Asia, including many LMICs, will cooperate effectively and share critical information. My great ambition is to develop a strong Asia-Pacific hub that will help LMICs in their efforts to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases.
Director of the GloPID-R Asia-Pacific Hub, NRF/KRIBB, South Korea