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Life sciences companies collaborate to fight COVID-19

By Wang Xiaodong in Wuhan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-27 00:05
A researcher does a nucleic acid test at the KingMed Diagnostics, a company commissioned to do coronavirus infection test in Wuhan, on March 2, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

A consortium of life sciences companies around the world announced a collaboration to accelerate the development, manufacture, and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for COVID-19, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in a statement on Thursday.

"We know that the private sector is where the technical skills and know-how regarding discovery, clinical trials, and commercialization sit," said Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the foundation. "We look to harness that knowledge and experience — combining it where possible — to connect with national regulators and the World Health Organization to see if we can help flatten the curve of this epidemic and make sure the results reach everyone around the world, particularly those at highest risk and the poorest."

Following a conference call with Gates Foundation leadership earlier this month, companies are working to identify concrete actions that will accelerate treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics to the field.

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 COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator — launched by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard two weeks ago — to quickly screen them for potential use against COVID-19. Successful hits would move rapidly into in vivo (live organism) trials in as little as two months.

"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 scale up," said Suzman. 

"While each of the consortium's partners will also be pursuing independent efforts with national governments and others, 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."

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