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Covid-19: Gates Foundation, Wellcome join Mastercard for $125 mn drug fund

New York, March 10 (IANS) Medical research foundations Wellcome and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined forces with payments major Mastercard on Tuesday to set up $125 million in seed funding to speed-up the response to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing and scaling-up treatments.

The Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, as the three partners call it, aims to play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with coronavirus in the immediate term, and other viral pathogens in the longer term.

Currently there are no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available for the fight against emerging pathogens, and none approved for use on Covid-19.

The Gates Foundation and Wellcome said they are each contributing up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million to catalyse the initial work of the accelerator.

The Gates Foundation’s funding is part of its up to $100 million commitment to the Covid-19 response announced last month.

“Viruses like Covid-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them move slowly,” Mark Suzman, Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

“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 organisations to act quickly to fund R&D,” Suzman said.

The Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will work with the World Health Organization, government and private sector funders and organisations, as well as the global regulatory and policy-setting institutions.

The Accelerator will have an end-to-end focus, from drug pipeline development through manufacturing and scale-up. By sharing research, coordinating investments and pooling resources, these efforts can help accelerate research.

“This virus is an unprecedented global threat, and one for which we must propel international partnerships to develop treatments, rapid diagnostics and vaccines. Science is moving at a phenomenal pace against Covid-19, but to get ahead of this epidemic, we need greater investment and ensure research co-ordination,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director at Wellcome.

The novel coronavirus has so far spread to over 100 countries and territories, infecting more than 100,000 people.

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