26 March 2020 - Deborah Wilkes
A consortium of healthcare companies is committing expertise and assets to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Companies from three continents are involved in the consortium. They include Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi.
The aim is to accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19.
As a first step, 15 companies have agreed to share their proprietary libraries of molecular compounds that already have some degree of safety and activity data with the recently-launched COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Accelerator – which was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard two weeks ago – aims to identify potential treatments for COVID-19, accelerate their development, and prepare for the manufacture of millions of doses for use worldwide.
The compounds will be quickly screened for potential against COVID-19. Successful hits will move into in vivo trials in as little as two months.
Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said this was an “encouraging start in a critical area”. “If any of these compounds are shown to be effective against COVID-19, it dramatically accelerates the path to product approval and scale up,” he added.
“While each of the partners will also be pursuing other efforts in partnership with national governments and other partners,” said Suzman, “it is a great example of why we are optimistic that this unprecedented collaboration will provide a platform for a fundamentally different kind of partnership to help address this global health emergency.”
Vas Narasimhan – chief executive officer of Novartis and co-chair of the consortium – commented: “We feel a deep shared responsibility to see if there are specific areas where collaboration across the life sciences industry and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation can accelerate solutions to this pandemic.”
“In addition to the individual contributions companies are already making,” he added, “collective action is critical to ensure any promising studies into vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics are quickly scaled to people around the world who are affected by this pandemic.”