Life sciences companies collaborate to accelerate coronavirus response

Article by Amanda Jasi

A CONSORTIUM of life sciences companies including GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer, is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the private sector is where the technical skills from discovery through to commercialisation know-how sits. The consortium aims to harness that knowledge and experience, combine it where possible, and connect with national regulators and the World Health Organization to see if it can help to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic and ensure the results are delivered to everyone around the world, “particularly those at highest risk and the poorest.”

The consortium is to accelerate development, manufacture, and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for coronavirus response. Following a conference call with leadership from the Gates Foundation earlier this month, the companies are working to identify “concrete” actions to accelerate the delivery of treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics into the field.

Firstly, the companies have agreed to share their proprietary libraries of molecular compounds for which some safety and activity data is already available. The compounds will be screened by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator for their potential against coronavirus, and successful molecules will be moved rapidly into in vivo trials in as little as two months.

The accelerator was launched earlier this month by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard. The US$125m in seed funding provided by the founders is to speed up the response to the coronavirus pandemic by identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling up treatments.

Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis and Co-Chair of the consortium, said: “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, 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.”

Suzman said: “This is an encouraging start in a critical area because if any of these compounds are shown to be effective against COVID-19 it dramatically accelerates the path to product approval and scaleup.”

“While each of the partners will also be pursuing other efforts in partnership with national governments and other partners, 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.”

The companies participating in the collaboration include: BD, bioMérieux, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

GSK noted its participation in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator in a recent update about its efforts against coronavirus, which include a US$10m donation to a coronavirus response fund.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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