International data alliance launched to advance COVID-19 research

International data alliance launched to advance COVID-19 research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, together with other donors and partners of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, has announced a new alliance aimed at accelerating clinical research on COVID-19.

In partnership with the Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg InitiativeMastercard, the Minderoo Foundation, and Wellcome, the International COVID-19 Data Research Alliance will support trustworthy, privacy-protected, and ethical data-driven research as determined by a governing board of global specialists. According to the Gates Foundation, it is not easy currently for researchers to access data sets from previous studies and trials that could be useful in answering questions about COVID's progression, its effect on the body, and potential treatments.

In support of the alliance, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator has funded the development of a COVID-19 Workbench that will enable researchers to access and analyze global multidimensional data sets in a trusted environment. According to the Global Coronavirus COVID-19 Clinical Trial Tracker, there  are nearly sixteen hundred clinical COVID-related trials involving more than fifty drugs. The alliance will focus initially on creating summaries of the trial data (e.g., overall results, patient subgroups, and specific endpoints) and use meta-analytical methods to provide side-by-side assessments of the drugs being studied.

To be managed by Health Data Research UK, the alliance, while initially focused on COVID-19, has the potential to support research on other health challenges, including preparation for future pandemics.

"In a pandemic, the pathogen has the upper hand. We know very little about it, so access to information becomes an important commodity," said Gates Foundation president of global health Trevor Mundel. "By entering into agreements on data sharing up front, we can avoid wasting time going down blind alleys, ultimately saving lives by getting definitive answers to key questions more quickly. This grant to form an international data alliance will accelerate efforts and provide a legacy for future collaboration on pandemics. We encourage others to join us and the other founding partners in this important initiative."

(Photo credit: Dieter Telemans/Panos)