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Pandemic Antiviral Discovery initiative created by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Open Philanthropy and the Gates Foundation

The initiative, backed with funding of up to $90m, will aid in the discovery and development of antiviral drug candidates

Novo Nordisk

The Novo Nordisk Foundation, Open Philanthropy and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have revealed a collaboration, announcing an initial commitment of coordinated funding of up to $90m for a programme called Pandemic Antiviral Discovery (PAD). The PAD initiative has been set up to aid the discovery and early development of antiviral medicines for future pandemics.

One of the key principles of PAD is equitable access and the founding partners of the initiative have pledged to ensure that discoveries and innovations supported by PAD are made accessible to people living in low- and middle-income countries.

The main aim of PAD is to support researchers globally in identifying and developing phase 2-ready antiviral drug candidates that are able to target pandemic threat viruses, including coronaviruses, orthomyxoviruses and paramyxoviruses.

These three viruses in particular are seen to have the highest potential for producing a future pandemic threat. However, as many of the diseases these viruses cause would primarily impact those living in low- and middle-income countries, there is a lack of market incentive to research and development effective treatments.

The funding partners involved in PAD will use various models, including direct grants and requests for proposals (RFPs), within defined research topics. The main focus of the first RFP will be henipavirus, a subfamily of paramyxovirus that includes Nipah virus – a pathogen with an approximate fatality rate of 40% to 75%. The initial RFP is scheduled to be announced during the International Conference on Antiviral Research (ICAR) in Seattle, Washington.

To promote international preparedness, PAD will concentrate its efforts on small molecule drugs that can be delivered orally and are cheaper and easier for patients to access than biologic drugs. By doing this, PAD hopes to be able to quickly develop and equitably distribute effective, accessible antiviral treatments in the event of a future pandemic.

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation, said: “The duration of the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder that the world needs to invest in next-generation tools to combat emerging threats.”

PAD will support various projects, including developing research and technology to help increase understanding of the priority viruses and help identify targets within the three target virus families. It will also identify new chemical matter – including by compound library screening and structure-guided drug design – and optimise antiviral lead compounds through medicinal chemistry and concentrated biological research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that worldwide health security requires contributions from the public and private sectors. The funding partners will collaborate through PAD with governments, private-sector funders and academic institutions to de-risk potential antiviral candidates, which will increase the likelihood of advancing to the clinical testing stage.

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

16th March 2022

From: Research

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