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Gates Foundation, Wellcome launch fast-track COVID-19 therapy fund

Partners commit $125m to seed-fund for potential treatments

Coronavirus

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with Wellcome and Mastercard, have set up a $125m seed fund for the accelerated identification and development of treatments for the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will focus on identifying, assessing, developing and scaling-up potential treatments for the virus, which has now taken a foothold in an increasing number of countries across the world.

The Gates Foundation and Wellcome will commit $50m to the initiative, while the Mastercard Impact Fund will provide up to $25m to expedite the work of the accelerator.

“Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly,” said Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“If we want to make the world safe from outbreaks like COVID-19, particularly for those most vulnerable, then we need to find a way to make research and development move faster. That requires governments, private enterprise, and philanthropic organisations to act quickly to fund R&D,” he added.

The accelerator will work with the World Health Organization (WHO), governments and private sector funders and organisations, as well as global regulatory and policy-setting institutions.

The aim is to share research, coordinate investment and pool resources to help fast-track research into potential therapeutics for COVID-19.

Moreover, the accelerator will take a ‘three-pronged’ approach to identify candidates; firstly it will test approved drugs for activity against COVID-19; secondly, it will screen libraries which contain thousands of compounds with confirmed safety data; and lastly, it will examine new investigational compounds and monoclonal antibodies.

A number of vaccines for the novel coronavirus are already being developed by a range of drugmakers, including Sanofi, GSK and Moderna.

Moderna has sent the first batch of its investigational COVID-19 vaccine to the US National Institute of Health (NIH) for phase 1 testing.

Sanofi’s work on a potential vaccine has also been fast-tracked by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The French drugmaker is tapping into its earlier work on the SARS virus – another type of coronavirus that caused an epidemic back in 2002.

Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen division has also partnered with BARDA to accelerate the development of a possible vaccine candidate, as part of a ‘multi-prolonged’ approach which also includes the screening of antiviral molecules for activity against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Gilead’s investigational antiviral drug remdesivir is currently being testing in clinical trials in the US and China to determine its efficacy against the virus.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

11th March 2020

From: Research

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