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Clinical researchers and representatives from the World Health Organization defined a bold new path for global research collaboration in acute care at a conference co-hosted by ISARIC, a global federation of investigator-led clinical research networks.

Laura Merson speaking into microphone

Clinical researchers from 40 countries and representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) met earlier this month to develop plans for sustainable global research collaboration that could have a lasting impact on addressing future pandemic needs. 

 The InFACT/ISARIC/Unity Health Colloquium on the Lessons of COVID-19 for Global Acute Care Research Collaboration was held from 4–7 October in Toronto, Canada. 

The first day of the conference was dedicated to translating experience from COVID-19 research to a global platform trial of respiratory support for severe acute respiratory infection. The WHO are collaborating with partners across the globe to design a study that addresses fundamental knowledge gaps in how to optimise the use of oxygen to treat acutely ill patients.  

Days two to four featured discussions and presentations on enabling global clinical trials collaboration, linking and harmonising large cohort studies, identifying the factors that drive heterogeneity of treatment effect (genetic, practice-dependent, social, economic), building local research capacity in resource-limited areas, and creating the organisational structures that sustain collaborative research models.

The Global Support Centre of ISARIC, a global federation of investigator-led clinical research networks, is hosted by the Pandemic Sciences Institute (PSI).

ISARIC has played a crucial role in research collaboration and, with 1 million records, the ISARIC database is one of the largest and richest international individual patient datasets of hospitalised COVID-19 cases. 

This event was hosted in collaboration with InFACT – a global network of investigator-led critical care clinical research groups, and Unity Health Toronto.   

Group of conference delegates


ISARIC Executive Director and PSI Director Professor Sir Peter Horby presented on the successes and lessons from the Oxford RECOVERY Trial, emphasising the impact of streamlining the design of a trial and integrating it into routine healthcare. 

In the lead up to the conference and throughout the talks, there was an emphasis on ensuring that future research models are designed for the needs of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). With the support of the organisations' funding partners, several LMIC-based ISARIC members applied to attend the conference in person.  

Laura Merson, Head of Data at ISARIC, said: “The lessons we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic must be applied now to enhance our response to ongoing and future outbreaks. 

“This conference, and the plans that have emerged from it, will progress the research community towards an evolved framework of collaboration and support. 

“By strengthening international partnerships, we will promote collaboration, reduce duplication, build research capacity, and accelerate the generation of evidence on better treatments for emerging infections and acute care.”

Outcomes of the conference will be communicated to the WHO in support of solutions towards the World Health Assembly resolution on strengthening clinical trials (WHA 75.8).