Seeded with up to $50 million each from the Gates Foundation and Wellcome and $25 million from Mastercard, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will coordinate research and development efforts and work to remove barriers to scaling treatments for the disease. By providing fast and flexible funding at key stages of the development process, the accelerator aims to de-risk the pathway for new and repurposed drugs and biologics, both for COVID-19 and future epidemic threats, and ensure their affordability and availability in lower-resource countries. The pledge by Gates is part of a $100 million commitment it announced in February in support of efforts to improve detection, isolation, and treatment efforts related to the outbreak.
Working with the World Health Organization, government, private-sector funders and organizations, and global regulatory and policy-setting institutions, the partners will share research, coordinate investments, and pool resources — from drug development through manufacturing and distribution. To identify candidate compounds, the initiative will take a three-pronged approach: testing approved drugs for their efficacy against COVID-19; screening libraries of thousands of compounds with confirmed safety data; and considering new investigational compounds and monoclonal antibodies. Drugs or monoclonal antibodies that pass initial screening will be developed by an industry partner. According to an accelerated timeline, it will take about a year to bring products with current regulatory approval — as well as candidates for which clinical data exist — to patients and longer for compounds further upstream in the drug development pipeline.
"Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly," said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. "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 organizations to act quickly to fund R&D."
"This virus is an unprecedented global threat, and one for which we must propel international partnerships to develop treatments, rapid diagnostics, and vaccines," said Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar. "Science is moving at a phenomenal pace against COVID-19, but to get ahead of this epidemic we need greater investment and to ensure research coordination."
Separately, Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, announced a new initiative to help American mayors respond to the rapidly evolving Coronavirus epidemic. Announced Tuesday at the National League of Cities 2020 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative will provide municipal governments with virtual technical assistance, coaching, and information urgently needed by the local leaders on the frontlines of the public health crisis.
"Mayors are on the front lines of the biggest challenges facing the country, including the Coronavirus crisis," said Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "But right now, there's an enormous gap between the support the federal government is providing and the support local governments need. This new initiative — an unprecedented collaboration involving experts from Harvard and Johns Hopkins — will help fill the gap, and help local leaders work to prevent the spread of the virus and protect the social and economic well-being of communities."
(Photo credit: Dieter Telemans/Panos Pictures)