Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is joining forces with Wellcome and Mastercard to launch a new initiative, The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Gates Foundation and Wellcome are each contributing up to $50 million. The Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million. The goal of the Accelerator is to identify potential treatments for COVID-19, accelerate their development, and prepare for the manufacture of millions of doses for use worldwide.
Any disease which threatens lives is disturbing, but one for which there is no treatment is especially alarming. And, as we’ve already seen with COVID-19, countries and communities bear immense human, economic, and social costs. At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re committed to doing everything we can to ease that burden, especially for the world’s poorest people who are often hardest hit by epidemics and their aftermath – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will work closely with WHO, funders from both government and private sectors, philanthropic enterprises as well as policy-setting institutions. The Accelerator aims to speed up R&D and slow down the spread by sharing and accelerate research, coordinating investments, and pooling resources.
Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly. 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 – Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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 coordination. The Therapeutics Accelerator will allow us to do this for potential treatments with support for research, development, assessment and manufacturing – Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome
While antiviral drugs are approved to lessen the severity of seasonal flu and treat HIV, among other viral diseases, none have demonstrated efficacy against the current epidemic. One reason for the lack of effective treatments is that products may not have an immediate market, which can slow or prevent their research and commercial development. The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is designed to help by bringing together resources and expertise to lower the financial and technical risk for academia, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies, while ensuring that these products are accessible and affordable to people in low-resource settings. The expertise of pharmaceutical companies will be critical in identifying, researching, and commercializing successful drugs – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“There are two reasons that COVID-19 is such a threat,” said Bill Gates. “First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems. The data so far suggests that the virus has a case fatality risk around 1%; this rate would make it several times more severe than typical seasonal influenza and would put it somewhere between the 1957 influenza pandemic (0.6%) and the 1918 influenza pandemic (2%). Second, COVID-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others.”
Currently, there are no approved treatments for COVID-19. This new initiative seeks to fill that gap by accelerating and evaluating new treatments for COVID-19. As such, Therapeutics Accelerator will coordinate research efforts and remove barriers to drug development.