Where to next? Crucial insights on trends and gaps for future research funding in the long battle against COVID-19

Researchers and funders around the world can tap into the latest trends and gaps for future COVID-19 research to funnel resources towards greatest research needs.

The latest quarterly Living Mapping Review (LMR) of COVID-19 funded research projects, by UKCDR and GloPID-R, now available on Wellcome Open Research, looks in-depth at the trends, opportunities, and remaining gaps in the long battle against COVID-19.

The UKCDR/GloPID-R COVID-19 Research Project Tracker continues to be one of the most comprehensive resources on COVID-19 research funding globally. It now contains over 11,397 funded research projects from more than 227 different research funders in 142 different countries, representing an investment of at least $4.8 billion (as of 2 July 2021).

The tracker was cited as “instrumental in reaching global funding decisions” in the World Health Organisation ‘COVID-19 Research & Innovation Achievements Report’.

Making best use of the expansive data in the Tracker, the Living Mapping Review’s crucial insights into the breadth of COVID-19 research has helped both funders and researchers to prioritise resources to underfunded areas where there is the greatest research need and facilitate further strategic collaboration.

The updated analysis (using data from the April 2021 version of the tracker) continues to show that of the WHO R&D priorities, Vaccines R&D has received greater investment than the other research priority areas, with at least $1.6 billion invested in Vaccines R&D research alone.

For the first time since April 2020, we noticed a decrease in the proportion of projects awarded by funders based in high-income countries compared to those based in low-and-middle-income countries.

We have also updated our ‘highlights’ on three of the emergent themes from the Tracker. Firstly, our analysis has shown that over 80% of research on indirect health impacts assess the mental health impacts of COVID. Secondly, research funders have prioritised laboratory capacity strengthening in response to the pandemic, indicating its importance to an effective response and future pandemic preparedness.

Finally, research funders have increased their funding investments in Long Covid projects. Over 120 Long Covid projects have been captured in our current analysis. Not originally set out in the WHO roadmap priorities, we have seen Long Covid emerge as a priority from our data. It is now recognised as a research priority following the ISARIC and GloPID-R Long Covid Forum in December 20

Through these emerging themes, we can better understand global research priorities as the pandemic continues to evolve, and further, inform research funding decisions. Each of these three ‘highlights’ are available through our website:

The Living Mapping Review, published on Wellcome Open Access, is an open-access, peer-reviewed paper that is updated every three months.

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