The World Health Organisation (WHO) will convene a global research and innovation forum next week to mobilise international efforts to combat the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.

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The forum, to be held here from February 11-12, has been organised in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness, reports Xinhua news agency.

It will bring together key players in critical public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.

Participants, including leading scientists, public health agencies, ministries of health and research funders, will discuss such areas of research as identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences.

Experts will build on existing SARS and MERS coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities, in order to accelerate scientific information and medical products that are most needed to minimise the impact of this novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” Tedros told the media on Thursday.

“There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible. WHO is playing an important coordinating role by bringing the scientific community together to identify research priorities and accelerate progress,” he said.

The meeting is expected to produce a global research agenda for the novel coronavirus, setting priorities and frameworks that can guide which projects are undertaken first, which should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers, according to the WHO.

“Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective counter-measures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimise the economic impact,” said Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO chief scientist.

As of Friday morning, the death toll in China due to the fatal virus increased to 636, with 31,161 confirmed cases.

Two deaths were reported outside China in the Philippines and Hong Kong.



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