Supporting a global response

COVID-19 emergency response activities, Madartek, Basabo, Dhaka

NIHR-funded global health research teams are working together across borders, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.

Responding and adapting to the pandemic

NIHR-funded research teams and partnerships have moved swiftly to adapt their programmes and projects to contribute to the COVID-19 response, focusing both on local needs, and on the global priorities identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

For example, the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery launched the CovidSurg collaborative of surgeons and anaesthetists to provide best evidence from patient centred and data driven research to support surgeons globally in conducting safe surgery during and after the pandemic. Using data from >200,000 patients in >1,650 hospitals in 116 countries, they have published 16 journal papers, which have amassed 1,600+ citations and coverage in >1,000 media outlets in 50 countries. Their findings have led to global guidance for surgical services by WHO and national surgical societies including the Royal College of Surgeons.

The NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA), hosted at the University of Edinburgh, has enabled the successful development of virus genome sequencing capacity through established partnerships in 13 countries across Africa, informing local, national and pan-African responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following NIHR funding in 2017, TIBA has trained African researchers to conduct real time viral genomic surveillance, characterise in-country emerging viral infections, and upload research findings to the open access platform GISAID. This partnership has strengthened regional collaborations, and provided epidemiological and data support to the Directorate of WHO Africa Regional office. This has resulted in several key journal articles, including a September 2021 paper in Nature Medicine on predictors of COVID across Africa.

The NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE) team,  also based in Edinburgh is responding to COVID-19 in Malaysia, India and Pakistan. In Pune, India, the research team conducted meetings in 120 villages with community leaders and health workers that resulted in recruitment of 11,000 participants for the ongoing COVID-19 sero surveillance study, while promoting preventive behaviours, and providing additional data for the national pandemic response coordinated by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Funding new rapid research to tackle COVID-19

Coronavirus does not respect borders, and the impact of the pandemic is being felt across the globe. Our varied multidisciplinary new research projects will directly benefit people in low and middle income countries, provide learning opportunities globally, and complement NIHR and UKRI’s cross-government approach to funding COVID-19 research in the UK.
Dr Lesong Conteh, Chair of Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) funding committee

We work with other major UK and global research funders to develop joint programmes and funding partnerships. For example, the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) rapid response programme with UKRI hs funded 20 projects in more than 30 countries across Africa, South America and South East Asia. Work already underway includes:

  • studies on developing optimal critical care pathways for COVID-19 patients across seven African countries
  • understanding the mental health needs of older people in Peru, and how they are being impacted by COVID-19 restrictions
  • preventing the spread of COVID-19 across different communities, by better understanding the impact of living conditions on infection rates, and acontact-tracing tool being tested in East Africa
  • developing a genomic surveillance system with real-time sequencing in the Philippines


Our COVID-19 global health research

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