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Partnership, Progress, Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Discovery

How is COVID-19 affecting progress against cancer and other long-standing health threats? This virtual roundtable discussion explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public and private sector-fueled medical progress. The panelists discussed the pandemic’s influence on the research NIH conducts and supports, our nation’s R&D infrastructure, the private sector investment climate, technology transfer and other key variables influencing the pace of medical progress, and opportunities to quickly reboot R&D as we move forward.
Thursday, June 18, 2020
2 – 3:15 p.m. ET
In this webinar, panelists discussed the prospect of transitioning from shutting down to reopening the research enterprise, which is an immense undertaking. Universities estimate it will cost $26B to ramp up R&D again. The effects on clinical trials have been significant — certain trials may ultimately take longer to complete, and others may be canceled. The panelists hope that certain innovations put in place due to COVID-19 will continue, like faster regulatory approval, flexibility in protocols, central IRBs, and patient accommodations (like virtual check-ins and flexible clinic visits), as long as they are shown to be ethical and do not contribute to disparities. Patient advocacy organizations and other nonprofits have been impacted by the pandemic; there has been a large loss of revenue due to cancelled fundraising events. These organizations often support early career researchers and underrepresented groups in science, so the panelists also emphasized the importance of supporting trainees and early career researchers to ensure the next generation of researchers is not lost. 
The panelists also discussed the importance of the Bayh-Dole and Stevenson-Wydler Acts in stimulating tech transfer and innovation — before the Bayh-Dole act became law in 1980, less than 10% of new drugs were first introduced in the U.S. The panelists noted that it will be essential to continue educating the public about the system and to remain transparent because concerns about conflicts of interest are being voiced. The panelists also noted a lack of consumer trust in taking the COVID-19 vaccine — usually, we lead with R&D but lag in consumer education; this cannot be the case if we want to effectively combat COVID-19. 



Sudip Parikh, PhD, chief executive officer, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


  • Ned Sharpless, MD, director, National Cancer Institute, NIH

  • Jenny Luray, MPA, vice president, strategy and communications, Research!America

  • Eleanor Perfetto, PhD, MS, executive vice president, strategic initiatives, National Health Council

  • Heather Pierce, JD, MPH, senior director for science policy and regulatory counsel, Association of American Medical Colleges