The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard and Wellcome committed up to $125m in seed funding to speed-up the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments.
The Gates Foundation and Wellcome are each contributing up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million to catalyze the initial work of the accelerator. The Gates Foundation’s funding is part of its $100 million commitment to the COVID-19 response announced last month. The partners are committed to equitable access, including making products available and affordable in low-resource settings.
The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator 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. Currently there are no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available for the fight against emerging pathogens, and none approved for use on COVID-19.
The accelerator will work with the World Health Organization, government and private sector funders and organizations, as well as the global regulatory and policy-setting institutions. It will have an end-to-end focus, from drug pipeline development through manufacturing and scale-up. By sharing research, coordinating investments, and pooling resources, these efforts can help to accelerate research.
To identify candidate compounds, the accelerator will take a three-pronged approach:
- testing approved drugs for activity 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 would then be developed by an industry partner.
The biotech and pharmaceutical industries will be critical partners, bringing their compound libraries and clinical data to the collaboration and lending commercialization and other expertise that will be required to scale up successful drugs and monoclonal antibodies.
In parallel to the development of the COVID-19 drug pipeline, the initiative will work with regulators to align criteria and develop manufacturing capacity with industry. An accelerated pathway to bringing effective treatments to patients is around one year for products that have current regulatory approval or candidates with existing clinical data. The timeline would be longer for compounds further upstream in the pipeline that have limited existing clinical data.