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The project, which will be titled the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, will work to pinpoint which new and repurposed drugs and biologics can treat patients immediately, and which can treat patients long-term.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Wellcome, a United Kingdom-based research charity; and Mastercard announced on March 10, 2020 that they are committing up to $125 million in seed funding to accelerate the response to the COVID-19 outbreak by identifying, researching, developing, and scaling-up treatments.
According to a Gates Foundation press release, the project, which will be titled the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, will work to pinpoint which new and repurposed drugs and biologics can treat patients immediately, and which can treat patients long-term. The Gates Foundation and Wellcome will each donate $50 million to the project and Mastercard will contribute $25 million.
“Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in the press release. “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.”
The Accelerator, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, government and private sector funders and organizations, and global regulatory and policy-setting institutions, will identify candidate compounds by testing approved drugs against COVID-19, screening libraries of compounds with confirmed safety data, and studying new investigational compounds and monoclonal antibodies, the press release said. If any of the drugs or antibodies pass the screenings, an industry partner will develop them.
“This virus is an unprecedented global threat, and one for which we must propel international partnerships to develop treatments, rapid diagnostics, and vaccines,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, in the press release. “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. The Therapeutics Accelerator will allow us to do this for potential treatments with support for research, development, assessment, and manufacturing. COVID-19 is an extremely challenging virus, but we’ve proved that through collaborating across borders we can tackle emerging infectious diseases. We must strive to strengthen efforts in the face of COVID-19, and in doing so, continue to make sure advances are accessible and affordable to all. Investing now, at scale, at risk, and as a collective global effort is vital if we are to change the course of this epidemic. We welcome others to join us in this effort.”
“We’re proud to join this crucial effort to combat COVID-19 in furtherance of our commitment to inclusive growth,” added Mike Froman, vice chairman of Mastercard. “This global challenge not only represents a risk to the health and safety of populations all over the world, but also poses a potential disruption to the economic vitality of millions of people, businesses, and organizations worldwide. Our experience with financial inclusion shows us the importance of building a network of parties who bring not only their capital, but complementary assets and skill sets to the table, and we welcome other partners concerned about inclusive growth to join this effort.”