COVID-19 & pandemic preparedness

COVID-19 & pandemic preparedness

GOAL: Build on broad COVID-19 testing capacity and the ACT-Accelerator model to establish sustainable early-warning and response systems for known and emerging pathogens

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating health and economic impacts, with over 3 million deaths to date and an expected total cost of between US$8.1 and US$15.8 trillion globally. The pandemic has focused global attention on the importance of diagnostics and testing data to drive public heath decision-making: the use of ongoing testing and surveillance to guide targeted lockdowns rather than broad restrictive measures, for example, could lower the economic burden 5-fold. Although the threat of a global pandemic due to a rapidly spreading, lethal respiratory pathogen had been documented, prior to COVID-19, global funding for pandemic preparedness had been reactionary and not well sustained. Diagnostics have always been the cornerstone for early warning, response and containment, yet they remain chronically inappropriate for global needs: significant diagnostic gaps remain for six of the ten WHO R&D Blueprint priority diseases, including an as-yet-unidentified disease X. The global response to COVID-19 has created a tremendous opportunity to bolster overall pandemic preparedness and response. It has demonstrated the importance of sequencing capacity for rapid pathogen and variant identification, and the benefit of open sharing of information between pathogen-specific experts and the global community, including genomic data, to track pathogen evolution and spur rapid test development. The need for fit-for-purpose testing networks to enable sustained, rapid differential diagnosis integrated across care networks from the community to tertiary level has also been highlighted.

Accelerating diagnostic test development and deployment to prevent a future pandemic

100 Days Mission



Our focus is on leveraging our COVID-19 response activities, including experience from the ACT-Accelerator, to break the cycle of “panic then forget” for testing and surveillance for outbreak-prone pathogens.


  1. Develop and deploy diagnostic tools to enable containment and clinical management of COVID-19 and other outbreak-prone pathogens, in support of acute outbreak responses
  2. Enable testing strategies and systems for mass screening for COVID-19, particularly outside of healthcare settings, in support of a return to normality
  3. Create a permanent early-warning and response system through a global network to build resiliency

Indicative deliverables:

  • 3 novel RDTs to enable triage for Blueprint pathogens
  • Low-cost, decentralizable, multi-pathogen testing platform with expanded menu for outbreak-prone pathogens
  • COVID-19 RDT price driven below US$1 (ex-works) through active market-shaping
  • Increased access to COVID-19 antigen RDTs through non-donor channels (including private sector)
  • Evidence for non-clinical use cases (including self-testing) generated in at least 5 countries
  • Catalytic engagement with 30–40 countries to support inclusion of COVID-19 testing in existing health strategies and capacity building (including training)
  • Online sample repository and specimen bank to support the development of new diagnostics for COVID-19 and other outbreak-prone pathogens
  • Technology transfers facilitated to build out regional manufacturing hubs in at least 3 locations
  • At least 2 countries supported in the rollout of open-source digital tools for surveillance

(Photo credit: Abdul Razak Abdul Latif / 2019)