June 10, 2023


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Long-term basic research is critical in health crises

total defense: – Curiosity-driven basic research in many disciplines over a long period of time is an important part of society’s resilience – and an important part of our public advocacy, define the article’s authors.

The pandemic has shown that more than ever we need a solid platform for basic research – so that we can better prepare for the next health crisis. Impending changes in research funding should strengthen this platform, not weaken it.

Announcement for healthcare personnel only

Ole Peter Ottersen

Han Flintstad Harpo

Han Flintstad Harpo

Story of the How we got out of the covid-19 pandemic needs to be corrected. The epidemic is coming to an end and the storytelling begins. We have long been able to read about how we can develop effective vaccines, new medicines and new treatments in record time. We’ve heard that SARS-CoV-2 came with no clue on how to deal with it – and that science should start with a blank slate.

That’s how the story goes. Thus mistakes can be made.

They forgot the heroes. During the epidemic, we quickly learned how to prevent, diagnose and treat the new disease. Nobody can argue with that. This has not happened through close collaboration between researchers, industry, research funders, health professionals and authorities. But this was not the result of a short-term effort.

Generations of basic researchers are the forgotten heroes of the pandemic

In fact, this success story is founded on decades of long-standing basic research. Generations of basic researchers are the forgotten heroes of the pandemic. We can thank long-term basic research for being able to handle the coronavirus pandemic better than the Spanish flu.

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We only need to look at the list of Nobel laureates to understand why we are better prepared to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic than the Spanish flu a hundred years ago.

wide platform. It is basic research that brought us the genetic code and the discovery of mRNA in the early 1960s. Basic research has brought us knowledge about viruses and infections, not least insight into epidemiology, cell biology, and immunology. It’s also the primary research that has shown us how mRNA can be modified and packaged into lipid vesicles to act as vaccines.

All of this has been absolutely crucial to public health measures during the pandemic and to the development of vaccines and vaccination strategies. The platform for research successes during the pandemic extends beyond medicine and biology, and includes other disciplines such as technology development (PCR, genome sequencing) and epidemiology.

Announcement for healthcare personnel only

Strengthen basic search!

When the next pandemic hits, the virus shouldn’t get the same head start that SARS-CoV-2 did three years ago. We should now start a discussion about how we can be better prepared next time. It is a question:

• Identifying and characterizing viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans and developing vaccines against these viruses.
• Building capacities for the production of medicines and vaccines in all continents and in the southern hemisphere.
• Developing a management system for the equitable distribution of medicines, vaccines and health resources at the global level.
• Improved access to extensive patient information along with improved monitoring and data sharing between countries.

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Above all, it’s about enhancing basic research – the platform on which everything rests. After the pandemic, we must now invest more in research, especially in curiosity-driven research.

We can thank long-term basic research for being able to handle the coronavirus pandemic better than the Spanish flu

Better facilitation! We should invest more in basic research. Curiosity-driven free search is the cornerstone of societal and technological development, and has a long-term perspective. As such, they are very sensitive to disruptions in finance. The pandemic has taught us that we need more research along the full gamut from the lab to the hospital bed, and back again to the lab.

Research costs money, but those costs pale in comparison to the costs of shutting down society in whole or in part, and they pale in comparison to the human and social costs of a global health crisis.

Among the Nordic countries, unfortunately, Norway has invested the least in research and development in recent years, measured as a share of gross national product (GDP). This was recently discussed by researchers at Statistics Norway in an article in the Trade Journal search policy and in Chrono.

If Norway is going to be equipped to face new health crises, the Norwegian authorities must facilitate more investment in basic research going forward.

Announcement for healthcare personnel only

True story? Basic research is part of the complete defense of Norway. If we ever had any doubt: The pandemic has shown us that curiosity-driven basic research in many disciplines over an extended period of time is an important part of society’s resilience — and an important part of our public defence. We also learned that research that wasn’t considered relevant at the time suddenly became relevant when a health crisis hit. When history is written about the pandemic, that is exactly what we should be saying.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we can’t just breathe a sigh of relief. On the contrary, we must work harder than before to be more prepared for the coming crisis. We know another crisis is coming.

But we don’t know when.

additional information:
The article’s authors state no conflict of interest, but add that Ole Peter Ottersen is a former chair at UiO and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Today’s medicinefrom the Facts and Debate section of Issue 06