[Ip-health] FT: Wellcome, Gates Foundation and Mastercard set up $125m coronavirus drug development fund

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Mar 10 00:26:12 PDT 2020


Charities set up $125m coronavirus drug development fund
Wellcome, Gates Foundation and Mastercard to back treatment research

Clive Cookson in London 3 HOURS AGO

The world’s two largest medical research foundations, Wellcome and the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mastercard’s Impact Fund charity are
jointly committing $125m in “seed funding” to develop treatments for
coronavirus disease.

The Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, as they have called it, will be a
catalyst to draw in much more money for coronavirus drug development, said
Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome director. He hopes other donors will see it as an
attractive vehicle to support research.

He is on the board of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an
independent health monitoring body, which estimated on Monday that a total
of $1.5bn will be required for research and development of a portfolio of
four Covid-19 treatments. “We have provided a place for others to join us
and we hope many will,” Sir Jeremy said.

UK-based Wellcome Trust, the medical charity, and the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, established by the billionaire Microsoft founder and his wife,
are committing $50m each to the Covid-19 Accelerator. Mastercard, the
global payments company, is putting in $25m.

The world currently has no broad-spectrum antivirals available in case a
dangerous new disease such as Covid-19 emerges. Nor are there any licensed
treatments specifically for coronavirus infections. The accelerator aims to
develop both.

Some pharmaceutical companies are beginning Covid-19 research, although no
estimate is available for how much they are spending. Most advanced may be
Gilead of the US, whose antiviral remdesivir — originally developed to
treat Ebola — is undergoing a clinical trial among Covid-19 patients in
China. Preliminary results are expected later this month or in April.

The new accelerator will work with the World Health Organisation,
governments and the private sector. It aims to provide “fast and flexible
funding” at all stages of development, from research to manufacturing and

Thousands of existing compounds and drugs approved for other purposes will
be screened for any activity against Covid-19, while new ones — including
antibodies — are developed. Those that look particularly promising will
then commercialised with an industry partner, working with regulators to
speed up the pathway to market. Products approved for other diseases or
with existing clinical data could be approved for Covid-19 within a year.
Others are bound to take longer.

“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
co-ordination,” Sir Jeremy said. “The Therapeutics Accelerator will allow
us to do this for potential treatments with support for research,
development, assessment, and manufacturing.”

Its mission for drugs will be similar to that of the Coalition for Epidemic
Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), which develops vaccines against emerging
diseases, he added.

But Sir Jeremy warned against expecting too much too soon, given
researchers’ uninspiring record of developing therapeutics for acute viral
infections. “Although we have some drugs for flu, they are not hugely
effective,” he said.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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