Coronavirus research gets $500m in pledges at Paris forum

European countries, Gates Foundation promise to step up help to develop and distribute COVID therapies.

Coronavirus vaccine trial
US drugmaker Pfizer said this week that its coronavirus vaccine candidate has proven to be more than 90-percent effective in studies [File: Pfizer handout via Reuters]

Governments and private charities will commit to more than $500m to boost research into the novel coronavirus at the Paris Peace Forum, organisers of the event said on Thursday.

The forum, an annual meeting of heads of state and government with civil society organisations and charitable foundations, said the funds would come from those participating in the ACT-Accelerator initiative, a programme designed to ensure global access to COVID-19 tests, therapeutics and vaccines.

ACT-Accelerator was launched and supported by the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the European Union, France, Germany and other states and organisations.

France and Spain will be making commitments of 100 million euros ($118m) and 50 million euros ($59m), respectively, while the UK government will contribute one additional British pound ($1.32) for each $4 announced, organisers said.

Another 100 million euros ($118m) will come from the European Commission.

The Gates Foundation added another $70m of funding to global efforts.

Of that amount, an extra $50m will go to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) led by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the foundation said, and another $20m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which is co-funding development of several COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The alliances are part of the ACT-Accelerator.

‘Equal access’

“We have to ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available – no matter where you live in the world,” the Gates Foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said in a statement. “Our pledge today… means we are getting closer to having the resources needed to help the world fight this virus.”

The ACT-Accelerator was launched in April to speed up research and development of solutions for the new disease.

Coronavirus vaccine
Developing a vaccine for the coronavirus is hard, but distributing it globally will be another challenge [File: Pfizer handout via Reuters]

While there are no COVID-19 vaccines approved yet and trials are still under way to prove current candidates are safe and effective, leading drugmakers have been funded to begin production early to expedite deliveries, as the pandemic has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

Preliminary positive data this week from trials of two potential COVID-19 shots – one from Pfizer and BioNtech and one developed in Russia – are encouraging signs that the first vaccines against the pandemic disease may be ready to be deployed before the end of 2020.

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it has enough data for a first interim analysis of the late-stage trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which should help determine the vaccine’s efficacy.

Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, said it has made 40 million doses of AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, and would soon begin making Novavax’s rival shot, as they both seek regulatory approval.

Source: Reuters