Corona research inhibits other research areas

Corona research inhibits other research areas

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Are cancer medicine and Co now neglected?

News, social media and newspapers are characterized by reports about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Most current studies and research are also concerned with the virus that can trigger the new disease COVID-19. What is the current state of research in other important areas such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease?

Corona research teams are in the spotlight right now. Colleagues who deal with cancer or diabetes are not so much. Experts from renowned institutes warn that this could have consequences for other departments.

Corona virus research in full swing

The scientific work on the corona virus is in full swing. Within a few months, a huge branch of research has sprung up out of nowhere and is being promoted with a lot of money.

Scientists around the world want to understand the pathogen, are feverishly looking for medication and a vaccine. However, experts warn that this could put other pressing problems in medicine, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer, out of focus.

Don't lose sight of other branches of research

Matthias Tschöp is scientific director of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, which also contributes to research on Sars-CoV-2. At the beginning of May, Tschöp said that well-known challenges that are life-threatening for many billions of people or that have a significant impact on their quality of life should not be lost sight of.

Basic research of great importance

“Active global cooperation to find solutions to the COVID 19 crisis is important and gives hope. However, it would be risky to interrupt decades of intensive basic research as well as translational and clinical research on the major common diseases and thus possibly endanger their success, ”warned Tschöp.

Millions of people are threatened by common diseases

In doing so, he particularly addresses the fight against chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer, which are still the main causes of death, disability and loss of quality of life worldwide. Today, more than 400 million people have type 2 diabetes. Associated cardiovascular diseases are the main cause of death in western societies, according to the Helmholtz Center. By 2040, the number of new cancers will increase from the current 18 million to around 30 million annually.

Coronavirus slows down other studies

"As far as general research is concerned, the current situation naturally has a significant impact," says a spokesman for the Max Planck Society (MPG). "All of our institutes are instructed to have their employees work in their home office wherever possible." Research projects with human subjects have not taken place recently.

Clinical studies interrupted

"It will certainly take weeks and months to bring the research operation back up to the pre-corona times," says the MPG spokesman. Until May, it was therefore not possible to work experimentally in the laboratory. Since then, "people have been thinking about how to slowly start up research at the institutes again" - without endangering the health of their employees.

Clinical trials in humans were almost on hold for weeks in almost all federal states. They have already started up again in some federal states, others are currently following suit, says Vice President of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Britta Siegmund. However, it was “always a risk-benefit assessment”. Patients who were included in studies before the corona pandemic remained in the studies throughout and were treated further. "But de facto no new patients have been included in non-COVID-associated studies in the meantime," says Siegmund.

There were several reasons for this: Because the logistics did not work across Europe, test medication and supplies could run out. In addition, examinations should have been carried out in the hospital - which was largely avoided.

Corona crisis delays

Problems arise especially in large studies that are relevant for the release of medicines, says Siegmund. "If these studies are now on hold for several months, they will be completed later." And of course the entire development and approval process will then be delayed.

"I personally think that if you have to reduce operations to 20 percent, then the resources must also be distributed fairly - regardless of the research question," says Christopher Baum, chair of the Science Group at the Medical Faculty Day. One cannot decide which research question is more socially relevant.

Diversity in research made it possible to react quickly

"A year ago, a coronavirus researcher would have been considered relatively unimportant," says Baum. "And then there is such an outbreak situation, and we are just glad that we have basic researchers who have been dealing with corona viruses for years."

That is precisely why there is a responsibility to maintain the diversity of the research landscape in equal measure and to further develop it as best as possible under these difficult conditions, says Baum. “Diversity is one of the strengths of German research. It is very important that there is no collateral damage and that the question is narrowed ”. (vb; source: Monia Mersni, dpa)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Helmholtz Zentrum München: Combating the COVID-19 pandemic and major common diseases at the same time: A balancing act for biomedical research (published: May 14th, 2020),

Video: Repurposing existing drugs for coronavirus: Scripps Research COVID-19 updates (November 2022).