- Early funding needed to advance drugs for fighting COVID-19
- Impact investors stepping up to fund research for COVID-19 treatments
- Billions of dollars are pouring into research at government health institutes, universities and private companies to jump-start drugs that can treat the virus
Updated at 11:15 a.m. April 27, 2020 to reflect new announcements.
It all comes down to money and early funding to develop drugs against COVID-19.
Ground-floor funding of drug research makes all the difference in whether a potential pharmaceutical solution hits the marketplace in a timely fashion, Dr. Deepak Srivastava of the biomedical research organization Gladstone Institutes, said on a conference call this week that discussed funding antiviral solutions to COVID-19. The pandemic has mobilized scientists worldwide to work in concert in “an unselfish way.”
“The only way we are going to solve is through innovation,” Srivastava said.
Billions of dollars are pouring into research at government health institutes, universities, private companies and others, to jump-start drug research that can help stem the tide of COVID-19.
Nonprofit impact investor ImpactAssets by the end of this month will have topped the $143 million it put into impact investing for all of last year, President and Chief Investment Officer Margret Trilli told Karma.
“What’s meaningful is that clients are coming to us for this,” added Trilli. “A lot of it is that impact investors have their finger on the pulse.”
Impact investors were influenced by Bill Gates saying five years ago that the world isn’t prepared for the next epidemic, Trilli said. Impact investing at her firm picked up even more in March as the spreading virus sparked demand. To date, the company has provided funding for two vaccine projects and two for treatment of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced plans to launch a public-private partnership to speed COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed billions to fighting COVID-19 and will now focus solely on fighting the virus, according to the Financial Times. This includes $20 million to three institutes: the University of Washington, the University of Oxford and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, to fund clinical trials to identify highly potent immunotherapies for COVID-19. These grants are the first investments from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, an initiative that the Gates Foundation, the research charity Wellcome and the credit card company Mastercard have collaborated on to speed up and access the development of therapies to treat the current pandemic.
According to Nature, as of April 8, the global COVID-19 vaccine research and development landscape includes 115 vaccine candidates, 78 of which are active. All but five of them are at the exploratory or preclinical stages, and some more advanced projects are now in clinical development, which can include drug discovery and product development, pre-clinical research (used on microorganisms and animals) and clinical trials (used on humans).
“Science will save you,” William A. Haseltine, chair and president of ACCESS Health International, said Wednesday at the Boundless Impact webinar. “It may not save you tomorrow, but eventually it will save you from this pandemic. I am 100% confident we will develop drugs for those infected.”
Haseltine, a former professor at the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health and a noted researcher on HIV/AIDS and cancer, said that compounds used in the treatment of earlier global diseases, such as SARS and MERS, have shown promise in fighting COVID-19. He added that no remedies on the market today have proven effective in countering the virus.
Over the weekend, global leaders, except for the United States, pledged unprecedented cooperation for research in fighting a vaccine. “We will continue now to mobilize all G7 and G20 countries so they get behind this initiative,” French President Emmanuel Macron told a conference call of leaders, according to The Guardian. “And I hope we will be able to reconcile around this joint initiative both China and the US, because this is about saying the fight against COVID-19 is a common human good and there should be no division in order to win this battle.”
A remedy touted by the Trump administration for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine (also known as hydroxychloroquine sulfate), treats arthritis, but can be used to prevent malaria, too, has proven fatal to some patients. On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings against using the drug outside a hospital setting because it has caused poisoning, serious heart rhythm problems and even death. Another potential antiviral drug, remdesiver developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., reportedly failed in its first randomized clinical trial to improve patients’ condition or reduce pathogens in the bloodstream, according to a report on Thursday in the Financial Times.