Clinical research on other diseases is another area that was highly affected by the focus on Covid-19.
In the United States 1,130 cancer clinical trials stopped between March 2020 and May 2021 because of Covid 19, according to the Cancer Research Institute, while 5,446 trials for treating Covid-19 were initiated during the same period.
The same pattern occurred in Qatar.
“The impact on clinical research is huge,” said Shahrad Taheri, assistant dean for clinical investigations and director of the Clinical Research Core at Weill Cornell Medicine–Qatar. “Many hospital staff and researchers are engaged in helping people fight the infection. That limits the type of research we can do, because we don’t have the manpower to do it.”
However, Toft thinks that in the long run, Covid-19 might have a positive impact on clinical research in Qatar, because the pandemic highlighted the importance of this type of research.
“I think this will be a breakthrough for clinical research in the future,” he said. “This is not only for coronavirus, it is similarly important for every field to continuously update your evidence to give the best documented treatment for patients.”
The College of Medicine is currently working to establish a department of clinical research as a joint project with Hamad Medical Corporation, but is still waiting for resources to be released. Toft thinks that the coronavirus pandemic will give the plan the push it needs.
Abdelaziz Bouras, a professor of computer science and manager of the Pre-Award Department at Qatar University’s Office of Research Support, said that the new conditions brought by the pandemic have had a big impact on the way the university works with its researchers and students.
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“In the background of all these discussions, there is this huge change in the definition of the university itself,” he said. “We are brainstorming now to find a more sustainable way to make our research and to transform universities to be more flexible.” (See a related article, “How Medical Schools in Qatar Adapted During the Pandemic.”)