Saturday, 18 April 2020

Compare and contrast: Covid-19 funding edition

On 24 February, New Zealand's Health Research Council announced that up to $3m would be available for Covid-19 research.
The Spinoff reported on Friday 17 April that they've awarded $3.8 million to 13 studies.
Nearly half the funding (around $1.3m) has been allocated to studies investigating possible treatments for Covid-19.

One, the Australasian Covid-19 Trial (ASCOT) lead by Middlemore Clinical Trials, will assess how effective two antivirals (lopinavir/ritonavir and hydroxychloroquine) are in treating hospitalised patients. The study will investigate whether one or both drugs can reduce the need for ventilator support or reduce the risk of death.

...

Aside from clinical trials, several of the newly-funded studies deal with socioeconomic impacts of the virus. One, led by public health professor Michael Baker of the University of Otago, will provide the Ministry of Health with information about how individuals and their whānau experience the pandemic – not just the disease itself but isolation due to lockdown and economic effects.

“The study does almost everything,” said Baker. “New Zealand has taken a unique approach so we want to document that. New Zealand may have got by because we’ve got a nimbler society and we’ve responded with amazing leadership but those things can’t be guaranteed. We have to learn as much as possible from this so we can prepare our society for future events.”

Two other studies, one from Massey University and the other from the University of Otago, will address how people respond to quarantine and lockdown. Particularly, the researchers want to understand how ethnic and socioeconomic inequality affect people’s ability to follow lockdown rules. The Massey University study will also try to understand the social, cultural, political and racial factors that shape people’s attitudes towards pandemic diseases.

Both are vital, the researchers say, for building solidarity among New Zealanders when combatting infectious diseases.
I'd thought that international studies were now showing hydroxychloroquine to be less promising than first hoped and Remdesivir to be looking more promising, but it's a fast paced thing.

Meanwhile, here's what Tyler Cowen put together over at Emergent Ventures. Read it twice and think about what had to have gone into getting this done this quickly.
As you may recall, the goal of Fast Grants is to support biomedical research to fight back Covid-19, thus restoring prosperity and liberty.

Yesterday 40 awards were made, totaling about $7 million, and money is already going out the door with ongoing transfers today.  Winners are from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Rockefeller University, UCSF, UC Berkeley, Yale, Oxford, and other locales of note.  The applications are of remarkably high quality.

Nearly 4000 applications have been turned down, and many others are being put in touch with other institutions for possible funding support, with that ancillary number set to top $5 million.

The project was announced April 8, 2020, only eight days ago.  And Fast Grants was conceived of only about a week before that, and with zero dedicated funding at the time.

I wish to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this a reality, including the very generous donors to the program, those at Stripe who contributed by writing new software, the quality-conscious and conscientious referees and academic panel members (about twenty of them), and my co-workers at Mercatus at George Mason University, which is home to Emergent Ventures.

I hope soon to give you an update on some of the supported projects.
They went from concept, to finding the money, to announcing the project, to getting an evaluation panel to evaluate 4000 applications, and awarding $7 million in grants to 40 projects, in about TWO WEEKS.

One little side-project run by Tyler Cowen.

Just amazing.

Oh, and for a sense of scale on the HRC funding project, and the implied priorities, the entire amount distributed for Covid projects is about 77% of the value of a single grant made to Janet Hoek at Otago Uni for, well, for this:

Year:                      2019
Duration:               60 months
Approved budget: $4,949,736.70
Researchers:          Professor Janet Hoek
Health issue:          Alcohol/drugs of dependence
Proposal type:        Programme

Lay summary
The Whakahā o Te Pā Harakeke programme represents a collaboration that will develop and improve evidence designed to close smoking disparities, particularly for Māori and Pasifika, enhance how tobacco control evidence is used in decision making, and accelerate progress towards a Smokefree Aotearoa. We will achieve this goal by using mixed methods approaches that combine population-level analyses of existing and potential interventions with in-depth enquiries that probe how reducing tobacco’s appeal, affordability and accessibility has impacted communities and whanau. Analysing the complex tobacco control system will evaluate knowledge translation routes, consider barriers and enablers within these, and identify how evidence can more effectively accelerate reductions in smoking prevalence and reduce entrenched disparities. By partnering with Hāpai te Hauora and Kokiri marae, we will draw on community knowledge, build research capacity, and create unique opportunities to engage across the stakeholder spectrum and address the pressing health inequities caused by smoking.

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