COVID-19: Global partnership for a global health emergency

Roche’s Cristin Hubbard and Paulo Fontoura, and others involved in the COVID-19 response, share their perspectives on how the evolving pandemic has required a multifaceted, collaborative approach.

The unparalleled global health threat of modern history

COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the world we live in. Within months, national lockdowns, business closures and social distancing measures had changed life as we knew it, while a novel coronavirus ravaged even the furthest corners of global society. We had to adapt to this new, fast-paced and ever-evolving environment. This meant we needed an unprecedented drive in innovation across the globe; one that was only possible through tireless collaboration.

Around the world, industry, academia, governments, and non-profit organisations joined forces to fight the pandemic. These partnerships have been paramount in combatting the disease and investigating options that meet the varying needs of patients, healthcare professionals and society at large.

As a healthcare company, we have a responsibility to help overcome the pandemic. We’re working to support countries in managing COVID-19 by providing tools that help diagnose the virus, so that people may receive the appropriate treatments and are able to return to their normal lives’ more quickly. Roche employees have also worked tirelessly to develop new treatment options for COVID-19 as it continues to evolve. Our aim is to help reduce the spread of the virus, and support those who are most affected by COVID-19.

It has been two years since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic.1 We’ve asked leading researchers, Roche experts and healthcare professionals to reflect on the great strides that have been made in the effort to tackle the pandemic during crucial timepoints. We hope to learn from them as we navigate living with COVID-19, together. Click through the months below to read what they had to say.

As our understanding of the virus grows, we become better equipped to respond to it

We reflect on learnings from the last two years, as we advance through the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape

It has been two years since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.1 In this time, unparalleled collaboration and innovation in global healthcare has meant that we now have numerous COVID-19 diagnostic tools, treatment options, and vaccinations.

In a statement, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO, reflects on what the global community has achieved:

Despite high numbers of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the world due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, many countries start to ease restrictions and attempt to return to normal life. The scientific community predicts that the virus may become more consistent and predictable, as it shifts from being a pandemic disease to an endemic illness.2 This will bring new challenges, as we learn to manage COVID-19 alongside other seasonal infections, such as influenza. For now, the global community continues to support countries with high medical needs due to the pandemic.

The Omicron variant begins to split into new ‘sub-variants’, reminding us of the ever-evolving nature of the virus and its potential to change its response to the tools developed to fight it, as well as its effect on the body.3

Paving the way for equitable access

More partnerships are formed as the global number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 400 million⁴

As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect people in different parts of the world, organisations and healthcare companies work together to ensure that tests, treatments and vaccines reach those most in need.

Testing options expand to meet changing needs

A new viral variant of concern begins to spread, driving a wave of COVID-19 infections across the globe⁵

As concern over the Omicron variant grows, governments enforce new measures to slow the spread of disease. To help understand its behaviour, Roche rapidly develops tests that assist researchers in determining whether a person is infected with Omicron or a different variant.6

Countries struggle with different challenges depending on which variant has infected most of the population. In some places, Delta is dominant, which causes more severe illness despite spreading less quickly than Omicron.7

At the same time, Roche works with its partner SD Biosensor to launch a rapid test that differentiates between COVID-19 and influenza.6

Global action is taken to make COVID-19 medicines and tests available to everyone who needs them

The global number of COVID-19-related deaths reaches five million⁸; experts gather to discuss solutions to the greatest health challenges

The roll out of COVID-19 vaccination booster campaigns in some countries highlights the inequality in distribution of vaccines, treatment options and tests around the world. International experts come together at the World Health Summit to discuss solutions to enable global access to these tools.

During this meeting, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO, also calls for global collaboration to end the pandemic:

Changes brought by COVID-19 help prepare the global community to manage other infections

The global number of COVID-19-related deaths surpasses four million⁹; the pandemic ushers in a new era of healthcare

Amidst ongoing discussions about the potential need for booster vaccinations, new clinical trial data continues to be released in the hope of broadening available treatment options.

The northern hemisphere fast approaches its upcoming influenza season. Lessons from the once insurmountable challenges of the pandemic may offer solutions to future outbreaks.

Treatment guidelines around the world are updated with new recommendations for COVID-19 care.

The need for rapid and accurate testing intensifies

Viral variants of concern continue to emerge; the global number of COVID-19-related deaths surpasses three million¹⁰

As more variants of concern are identified globally, researchers investigate how these mutations might affect the ongoing pandemic.

Roche and its partners continue to work with regulatory authorities around the world to bring potential COVID-19 therapies to those that need them.

Persistence is key to combating an equally persistent disease

One year on, COVID-19 continues to evolve as the world surpasses 100 million cases¹¹

As 42 countries roll out their COVID-19 vaccination programmes, multiple governments begin identifying viral variants of concern.12

Later, new data on the use of one of our COVID-19 treatments is announced, contributing to our understanding of the disease.6

Expanding our partnerships to meet the ever-varying needs

Global number of cases surpasses 40 million¹³; the need deepens to prevent people with COVID-19 from being hospitalised

The number of COVID-19 cases rising globally brings increased pressure on healthcare systems to cope with soaring demand.

In the months to come, positive clinical trial data are released showing that some vaccines under investigation may effectively prevent COVID-19 from causing severe illness.14 Regulatory bodies work around the clock to evaluate the data and secure approvals.

By the end of the year, the United Kingdom becomes the first country in Europe to begin rolling out its vaccination programme.15

More options to support more people with COVID-19

Global number of cases surpasses 20 million¹⁶; the search expands to prevent those in hospital from developing severe disease

As the global need to urgently scale up testing in resource-limited settings intensifies, Roche diagnostics teams develop a rapid test, known as lateral flow, that can determine whether a person has COVID-19 within 15 minutes, helping doctors to make on-the-spot decisions about patient care quickly and accurately.6

Shifting from a reactive to a proactive response

Global number of COVID-19 cases surpasses five million¹⁷; WHO fosters global collaboration to fight the pandemic

Industry and governments acknowledge the need to anticipate and prepare for potential upcoming challenges of the pandemic. A landmark resolution is set at the WHO’s 73rd World Health Assembly to bring countries together to fight the virus by ramping up global efforts to control the pandemic, and calling for global access to, and distribution of, all essential health technologies and products to combat the virus.18

Pivotal new data reveal that almost one in three individuals infected with COVID-19 could be asymptomatic.19

Roche intensifies its response, exploring partnerships with academia, governments, and other health bodies, including theas well as supporting independent treatment research efforts.20 By working closely with our industry partner, Gilead Sciences, another clinical trial is initiated in COVID-19.6

Delivering unprecedented efficiency in unprecedented times

WHO declares a global pandemic¹; the need for testing and treatments intensifies to help the sickest of patients

There is an unparalleled global effort to launch testing options andas swiftly and safely as possible.

In just 38 days, Roche teams develop an accurate and reliable test to detect whether a person currently has COVID-19. The test is authorised for emergency use in the US within weeks of the virus making headlines globally, with other countries soon to follow.6

In parallel, researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom inject the first person in early COVID-19 vaccine trials.21

In the months to come, our team develops an antibody test to determine whether a person has previously been infected with COVID-19 in the hopes that this will help the world understand the spread of the virus.6

A swift response to an unexpected disease

WHO announces a Global Public Health Emergency²²; the search for tests and treatments unfolds

As the global threat of COVID-19 emerges, scientists around the world work tirelessly to identify whether existing tests or treatments may be effective in combatting this new coronavirus.


  1. World Health Organization. WHO announces COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  2. Murray C. COVID-19 will continue but the end of the pandemic is near. The Lancet. 2022 Jan 29;399(10323):417-19.

  3. World Health Organization. Statement on Omicron sublineage BA.2. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  4. Reuters. COVID cases surpass 400 million as Omicron grips world. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  5. World Health Organization. Update on Omicron. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  6. Roche data on file.

  7. Imperial College London. Report 50 - Hospitalisation risk for Omicron cases in England. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  8. Reuters. Global COVID-19 deaths hit 5 million as Delta variant sweeps the world. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  9. Reuters. Global COVID-19 death toll exceeds 4 million. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  10. Reuters. Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million amid new infections resurgence. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  11. Sky News. COVID-19: 100 million coronavirus cases recorded worldwide - a year after virus first officially diagnosed. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  12. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  13. Reuters. Global coronavirus cases surpass the 40 million milestone. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  14. STAT. Pfizer and BioNTech to submit Covid-19 vaccine data to FDA as full results show 95% efficacy. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  15. UK government. UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  16. Sky News. Coronavirus: Global cases surpass 20 million, but experts believe real figure is higher. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  17. CNBC. Global coronavirus cases surpass 5 million. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  18. World Health Organization. Historic health assembly ends with global commitment to COVID-19 response. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  20. National Institutes of Health. NIH to launch public-private partnership to speed COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  21. The University of Oxford. Oxford COVID-19 vaccine begins human trial stage. [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

  22. World Health Organization. Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). [Internet; cited 2022 Mar 07]. Available from:

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