GSK efforts against coronavirus include US$10m to response fund

Article by Amanda Jasi

BRITISH multinational pharma company GSK is helping to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, including via a US$10m donation to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The fund was created by the UN Foundation, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to support WHO and its partners in preventing, detecting, and managing the coronavirus pandemic.

Amongst other objectives, the fund will enable supply of essentials such as personal protective (PPE) equipment to frontline health workers. GSK is also preparing to supply several countries with surplus PPE, and is already donating surplus reagents to support diagnostic testing.

Prevention and treatment efforts

GSK is also contributing to efforts to develop a vaccine to combat coronavirus. The company’s initial response to the coronavirus outbreak has been to make its vaccine adjuvant technology available to scientists and organisations working on candidate vaccines.

An adjuvant developed by GSK has proved beneficial in the first preclinical trials of a collaboration working towards a coronavirus vaccine. Adjuvants are pharmaceutical or immunological agents which can be added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response and create a stronger and longer-lasting immunity against infections than vaccines alone. They are particularly important during pandemics as they can reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, enabling more doses to be produced, and helping to protect more people.

Over the next three months, the pharmaceutical company expects data from other collaborations that will inform the next steps for clinical development of the candidate vaccines.

Since it announced partnerships with China-based global biologic therapy development company Clover Biopharmaceuticals and the University of Queensland, Australia, GSK has expanded its collaborations. It is now working with partner companies and research groups around the world, including the US and China. Clover has large in-house, commercial-scale biomanufacturing facilities in place, and could potentially rapidly scale up large quantities of a new coronavirus vaccine.

The company is evaluating further collaboration opportunities with several other companies and institutions. Additionally, it is exploring options to share its manufacturing capacity to help provide scale manufacturing and production for an eventual vaccine.

GSK is also entering the new collaborative research effort, COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Accelerator aims to bring together pharmaceutical companies and expert academic institutions to help accelerate development of promising molecules to help combat coronavirus. GSK is to contribute by making compounds from its libraries available to screen for activity against the virus.

The company is also evaluating pharmaceutical products and medicines it has on the market to determine if any of them could help in addressing the pandemic. This includes medicines with potential direct anti-viral activity, and those that could prevent or treat secondary complications of coronavirus.

Furthermore, GSK has initiated a volunteering process for its staff, to enable those with medical expertise to support frontline healthcare workers whilst ensuring that it protects supply and development of medicines and vaccines. It has also started initiatives to use its salesforce to help deliver PPE and testing equipment, and for specialists – such as procurement leaders – to help national governments develop supply chains.

Recently, IChemE sent a letter to the UK Government volunteering its support for vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic manufacturing to help combat the coronavirus.

Multiple companies and organisations are working to develop a vaccine to combat the global coronavirus emergency. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said “it could take 12–18 months” before a vaccine is available.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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