Despite its economic impact and health drawbacks, the Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged many Saudi university research centers to pay more attention and devote more support to public health and epidemiological research, which had been declining over the past few years.
Some of the kingdom’s university research centers have announced generous financial support for projects that focus on better understanding transmission patterns of SARS-CoV-2, as the virus that causes Covid-19 is formally known, and hence assist in the development of rapid diagnostic and bioinformatics tools to help track the disease’s spread and progression. (See a related article, “Health and Economic Crises Threaten Arab Funding for Research.”)
Among these research projects is a major effort promoted by Community Jameel, an international organization that supports innovation in science and technology. In April, the organization launched the Jameel Fund for Infectious Disease Research and Innovation in Saudi Arabia to combat diseases caused by coronaviruses, including Covid-19, Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
“We aim to support new discoveries that can help prevent, detect and diagnose coronaviruses, such as Covid-19, MERS and SARS, through a framework that considers collaboration among researchers and accelerates the development of clinical solutions to treat a group of infectious diseases prevalent in the Gulf region and globally,” said George Richards, director of Community Jameel, in a phone call.
The project, which will be overseen by a joint committee composed of representatives from King Abdulaziz University and Imperial College London, aims in its first round to support research focused on the transmission and causes of coronaviruses.
Future rounds of the research project will target other diseases, according to Richards. The first-round projects will last from six months up to a year, he added.