Tuesday, 10 March, 2020
A new COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator initiative, designed to speed up the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19, has been announced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Wellcome Trust and Mastercard. Worth $125 million (comprising $50 million from BMGF, $50 million from the Wellcome Trust and $25 million from the Mastercard Impact Fund), this new seed funding aims to speed up the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing and scaling-up treatments. The BMGF contribution to the Accelerator fund is part of its commitment to allocate up to $100 million to the COVID-19 response that was announced in February 2020.
The Accelerator will coordinate R&D efforts and remove barriers to drug development, with particular emphasis on equitable access, affordability and enabling take-up in low resource settings. It will play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with COVID-19 in the immediate term, and other viral pathogens in the longer-term. There are currently no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available for the fight against emerging pathogens, and none approved for use on COVID-19.
The focus will be on the entire 'journey', from drug pipeline development through to manufacturing and scale-up. It is recognised that by sharing research, coordinating investments and pooling resources, research into COVID-19 will be accelerated.
Mark Suzman, BMGF Chief Executive Officer, states:
'Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly. 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.'
Work will take place in partnership with the World Health Organization, government and private sector funders and organisations, as well as the global regulatory and policy-setting institutions. The 2014 Ebola outbreak made it clear that this kind of collaboration is key to tackling epidemics. By providing rapid and flexible funding at key stages of the development process, the Accelerator will de-risk the pathway for new drugs and biologics for COVID-19 and future epidemic threats, and ensure access in lower-resource countries.