Investors are beginning to infuse more capital into the health sector to find a vaccine for COVID-19. One of the latest investments is $20 million from partners in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
The grant was given to three institutions – the University of Washington, University of Oxford, and La Jolla Institute for Immunology. This is to accelerate the development of therapies for COVID-19 and increase access to it as vaccine for the virus.
This is the first grant to be issued by the accelerator. A statement seen by Nairametrics quoted the Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman to have said:
“These grants to leading institutions in their fields will advance our understanding of how existing drugs and antibodies can contribute to addressing the pandemic we’re facing around the world.”
In the meantime, there are currently no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available to prevent or treat COVID-19. It is, therefore, expected that the new investments will accelerate efforts towards developing one.
“These initial investments through the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will bring rigour to the study of these potential solutions. The way forward will be informed by sound science and shared data,” Suzman said.
Money not enough to fund solutions: Partners in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator are Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard. The accelerator had also received $25 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and £40 million from the U.K. Government to strengthen its financial capabilities to fund the development of a viable solution.
The fund under the accelerator will allow distribution of grants that will enable studies to be conducted on repurposed drugs, as well as investigate biological compounds for activity against COVID-19. But Nairametrics learnt that the group is still in need of more funding in order “to move promising therapies through development and scale-up.”
Promising COVID-19 solution on table: Presently, the focus is on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. The released fund will be used to conduct trials and investigate the effectiveness of the drugs which have been used to treat malaria and a variety of rheumatological conditions for more than 50 years.
Both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have known antiviral properties. So, the trial will probe whether during pre- and post-exposure to COVID-19, these drugs can serve as preventive therapy. There have been constant discussions about these drugs in Nigeria and globally since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but no assurance has been given.
Aside from discovering how effective these drugs will be, the trials are expected to give answers about where and within which populations to use them amidst the pandemic. This is vital due to some users who react to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. This is the reason why the drugs were dropped in Nigeria years ago.
The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead at Wellcome, Nick Cammack, said:
“Investment in research is the world’s only exit strategy from COVID-19. Drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics are vital to saving lives, to ending this pandemic, and to preventing it from happening again.
“Now is the time to evaluate whether existing drugs will prove to be safe and effective. We urge others to join us in this collective global effort. Investing now, at scale, in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is vital if we are to change the course of this pandemic.”
Also commenting on the grant is vice chairman of Mastercard, Mike Froman, who stated:
“Today’s grants are an important next step in the Therapeutic Accelerator’s commitment to identifying and scaling treatments to combat COVID-19.
“In order to provide therapeutic solutions to this global pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, we need to speed up the research and development process through a collaborative funding effort by the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and governments. We welcome the participation of additional organizations that can contribute the resources needed to help bring an end to this crisis.”
Over 42,000 people compromised of East Asians, Britons, and other Europeans will be randomly selected as participants in the trials. Results from the trials will only be available in late 2020.