WHO convening experts on drugs, vaccines to set coronavirus research agenda

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files

GENEVA (Reuters) – Hundreds of experts will meet in Geneva next Tuesday and Wednesday to set research and development priorities for coronavirus drugs, diagnostics and vaccines to combat the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

“There are no proven effective therapeutics for novel coronavirus,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO emergencies programme, told a news conference.

WHO epidemiologist Dr. Maria van Kerkhove said participants would include experts in clinical investigations and research into an animal source of the virus which emerged at a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

“We want to bring the best minds, people who have experience in this so come around a comprehensive research agenda around coronavirus,” she said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a multinational WHO-led team would go to China very soon to work with Chinese authorities in tackling the outbreak. He gave no details.

A total of 24,363 confirmed cases have been counted in China, including 490 deaths, Tedros said. The past 24 hours had seen the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started.

Outside China there have been 191 cases in 24 countries and one death in the Philippines, WHO figures show.

The WHO-led mission may include experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some 20 agencies in the tourism and travel industry, including IATA, ICAO and the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization as well as several airlines, took part in a teleconference on Wednesday to discuss concerns including protection of crews and passengers when flights to and from China resume, she said.