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Science funding for crisis response and long-term resilience

c.washbourne5 February 2021

By Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Julius Mugwagwa, Remy Twiringiyimana and Anne-Marie Kagwesage

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are still struggling to cope with ongoing and evolving challenges brought by the virus. Governments are actively responding, day to day, with new or improved guidance for their population, based on the most up to date understanding of the pandemic, drawing on cutting edge insights from a range of different research fields.

Medic in covid testing centre

“COVID-19 testing” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the shadow of this evolving crisis, the line between short term response and long-term sustained management has become more and more blurred. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbated by, runs in parallel to, and draws focus from many other critical and long-term social and environmental issues, including demographic shifts, urbanisation and the climate and extinction crises. Institutions tasked with supporting national systems of science and innovation have a huge role to play in the response to all of these challenges. For them, the pandemic presents both a great opportunity to generate and communicate technical insights, which could have real and immediate societal impact, and a challenge in allocating and mobilising resources to ensure a balance of short-term responsive issues and longer term developmental and strategic goals are being met.

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Covid-19 and the chance to build back better for mental health

Shirah M Zirabamuzale23 November 2020

My doctoral project on Sustainable and Responsible Innovation in Mental Health (SRIMH) investigates the feasibility and utility of healthcare policies and architectures that on one hand promote mental health through patient-centric designs and design responsibility, and on the other through sustainable and thoughtful environmental design embedding regenerative and adaptive reuse/preservation strategies. Mental illnesses are increasingly recognised as a leading cause of disability worldwide, yet many countries have fragmented funding models, policy structures and physical infrastructures. Mental well-being affects community spirit, education and the economy, making it a priority for governments worldwide.

Mural of cupped hands

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and, in some cases, halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide yet the demand for mental health is increasing, as highlighted in a recent WHO survey. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding, technological innovation and policy interventions that advance the role of the built environment and SRIMH in improving mental health for citizens.

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Access to Remdesivir for patients in the UK: it won’t be quick or cheap

saheli.burton9 June 2020

Saheli Datta Burton is a Research Fellow in Geopolitics of Industrial IOT Standards, with an interest in the global governance issues of emerging medical technologies. 

Gilead’s drug Remdesivir is increasingly being endorsed by various governments as an aid for improving recovery times in COVID-19 patients. Just last week, the Australian government endorsed Remdesivir as an aid to recovery. A week earlier, the drug was made available in the UK for compassionate use in emergency situations via the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) based on a 1-year provisional licensing arrangement between the NHS and Gilead. EAMS allowed doctors in the UK to administer Remdesivir outside the ongoing clinical trials without being penalised for malpractice.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by NIAID

The question is what will happen after the EAMS’ provisional license runs out in a years time? Can patients in UK still receive the drug? The answer depends on the price. Or, more precisely, on Gilead’s ‘rich country’ price mark-up for UK patients. And the higher the price, the longer it will take to become available to patients. Here’s why.

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Science-as-unusual in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world?

juliusmugwagwa14 May 2020

By Julius Mugwagwa, Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Remy Twiringiyimana and Anne Marie Kagwesage from the STECS Project Team, UCL & University of Rwanda

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic has exposed frailties in our health, social and economic systems. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019 and its rapid global spread to infect more than 4 million, causing nearly 300, 000 deaths to date, has been a perfect storm of human and physical factors. The outbreak has simultaneously tested various aspects of our deeply interconnected societies, resulting in delayed, sluggish, inadequate and at times impotent responses to the pandemic.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – CG Illustration by Yuri Samoilov yuri.samoilov.online

If there is a silver lining that has visibly emerged from the pandemic, it is the important, yet often hidden role that different disciplines of science and engineering play in generating and providing tools for dealing with societal challenges. From provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid development and supply of ventilators and drug therapies, to insights feeding into social distancing guidance and rapid response measures to keep communities fed – science and engineering inputs have been suddenly placed centre stage, for all to see and appreciate. From fields as diverse as epidemiology, behavioural science, chemistry, data science, molecular biology, pharmaceutical sciences, communication and civil, chemical and biomedical engineering, among thousands of others, the pandemic has provided a chance to see the great contributions that the millions of people working in these fields make to our lives.

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COVID-19: how much do local science system capabilities matter in Africa?

c.washbourne6 April 2020

By Julius Mugwagwa, Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Remy Twiringiyimana and Anne-Marie Kagwesage from the STECS Project Team, UCL & University of Rwanda

Science matters

Colleagues from UCL and the University of Rwanda are nearing the end of the STECS research project in which we were investigating and unpacking the role, relevance and contribution of African science councils in national development. The role of science in economic development is widely recognised across Africa, and is amply ingrained in continental agendas and programmes such as the African Union’s Agenda2063 and STISA-2024, as well as national institutions and resource deployments.

In order to strengthen the role and contribution that science can make to national, continental and global causes, the African Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) has been supporting science granting councils or national science councils in 15 sub-Saharan African countries through various capacity strengthening activities which include development and use of research management tools, use of innovation indicators, partnerships with the private sector and enhanced networking of country-level science granting councils. Challenges such as the current COVID-19 global health pandemic are presenting both challenges and opportunities for science communities globally.  In the African countries that were part of the STECS project, we have started to witness the role and location of the science community’s voice in public discourses on the pandemic. What remains unclear for us though is the science advice input behind the public health actions taking place in the countries.

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