5 May — Paltry historical funding for coronavirus-related research
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, funding for research related to coronaviruses constituted just 0.5% of global spending on infectious-disease studies by public and philanthropic organizations. From 2000 to the start of this year, these organizations spent about US$550 million on coronavirus work, according to an analysis by researchers at the University of Southampton, UK. By comparison, Ebola-related research received $1.2 billion (1.1% of global spending).
Spending has risen to $985 million since the current outbreak began (see ‘Coronavirus cash’). About $275 million of COVID-19 research funding is focused on vaccine development, $40 million on therapeutics and $18 million on diagnostic tests. The researchers note that the spending has generally been reactive — explaining spikes in 2004 and 2015, after outbreaks of the coronaviruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, respectively.
5 May — How the coronavirus breaks into human cells
Researchers are scrambling to uncover as much as possible about the biology of the latest coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2 — and a profile of the killer is emerging. Scientists are learning that the virus has evolved an array of adaptations that make it much more lethal than the other coronaviruses humanity has met so far. Unlike its close relatives, SARS-CoV-2 can readily attack human cells at multiple points, with the lungs and the throat being the main targets (see ‘Deadly invader’). Read more about the complex biology of this killer virus here.
5 May — Which country had the strictest coronavirus response?
Nations have responded in vastly different ways to the coronavirus pandemic, and researchers are now sifting through data to work out which strategies — from wearing face masks to enforcing lockdowns — worked best. Scientists with the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker project have developed a ‘stringency index’ that scores a nation’s strategy on the basis of how strict it is, and allows approaches to be compared directly (see ‘Pandemic protections’). Read more about efforts to track the most effective strategies against COVID-19 here.