The development of safe and effective vaccines in a record time after the emergence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a remarkable achievement, partly based on the experience gained from multiple viral outbreaks in the past decades. However, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis also revealed weaknesses in the global pandemic response and large gaps that remain in our knowledge of the biology of coronaviruses (CoVs) and influenza viruses, the 2 major respiratory viruses with pandemic potential. Here, we review current knowns and unknowns of influenza viruses and CoVs, and we highlight common research challenges they pose in 3 areas: the mechanisms of viral emergence and adaptation to humans, the physiological and molecular determinants of disease severity, and the development of control strategies. We outline multidisciplinary approaches and technological innovations that need to be harnessed in order to improve preparedeness to the next pandemic.