NIH STRATEGIC PLAN FOR COVID-19 RESEARCH 2021


To the American People, 

With the aim of turning discovery into better health for all, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests in biomedical research that spurs innovations in science and technology. NIH research has proven its value to the United States and the world over the years by rising to meet the challenges of polio, AIDS, and many other formidable health foes. Most recently, the critical importance of NIH research has been demonstrated by our response to what is likely the greatest public health crisis of our generation: the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Over the past year, COVID-19 has inflicted a staggering toll on our Nation, claiming the lives of more than a half-million Americans. U.S. science has risen to this daunting challenge and made unprecedented progress in the fight against this swiftly spreading disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. 

To address the challenges that COVID-19 poses to our health and economy, NIH has, from the pandemic’s outset, worked with all sectors of society in unprecedented ways with unprecedented speed. Enabled by the strong support of Congress and other partners in the public and private sectors, the U.S. biomedical research enterprise has mounted a vigorous response that has given rise to increased testing capacity, innovative therapeutic strategies, and, perhaps most important, safe and effective vaccines. The breathtaking pace and scope of this progress has been made possible by decades of NIH-funded basic research, which built a robust foundation for our continuing efforts to combat COVID-19 and the emerging viral variants that threaten to extend the pandemic’s tragic timeline. 

Among the out-of-the-box initiatives now underway under NIH’s leadership are the following: a highly innovative, competitive effort to expand the capacity and accuracy of testing; a pioneering public-private partnership to accelerate development of therapeutics and vaccines; and a major new push to understand and devise ways to treat or even prevent Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, or “Long COVID.” NIH research also is tackling the disturbing disparities seen in the COVID-19 response, with the aim of developing effective, evidence-based methods to ensure that tests, treatments, and vaccines reach all populations, particularly those disproportionately affected by this devastating disease. 

In this updated strategic plan, NIH shares its framework for ensuring that no stone goes unturned in the scientific response to COVID-19. We will carry out this mission by supporting the collective efforts of NIH’s researchers, collaborators, and diverse stakeholders to improve, advance, and optimize COVID-19-related research in five key areas: fundamental knowledge, detection and diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and health disparities. 

NIH acknowledges that the goals set forth in this plan are very ambitious. Yet we remain optimistic because of our agency’s strong record of encouraging ingenuity and delivering biomedical breakthroughs, even in the most difficult of times. We are convinced that pulling together the best minds in science will continue to enable our Nation to meet the twin challenges of closing the door on the COVID-19 pandemic and opening the door to new strategies for confronting future pandemics.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. 
Director, National Institutes of Health

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