Wellcome, the global independent foundation, has today announced the first group of businesses and philanthropists to pledge funds through COVID-Zero, a coalition supporting research and development into vaccines, treatments and tests for COVID-19.
The Avast Foundation, the charitable arm of online security and privacy company Avast, has donated $20 million to fund both vaccine ($8 million) and treatment ($12 million) research. Avast CEO, Ondrej Vlcek, said: "I believe that a rigorous, scientific approach to treatment and prevention will help us overcome COVID-19. The systematic and well-funded approach being taken by the COVID-Zero Coalition to testing, treatment and vaccine development will minimise lockdowns and disruptions, and ultimately, save lives. We are in awe of those working on the front lines during this crisis – the day cannot come soon enough when we will have the treatments that mean they no longer need to put themselves at risk for others."
Donors such as Advent International, General Catalyst, Nigel Blackwell and The Duff & Phelps Charitable Foundation have also stepped up to help fund the science. These organisations and philanthropists have joined COVID-Zero because they know that developing and manufacturing vaccines, treatments and tests is “the world’s only exit strategy” for tackling COVID-19 and will save lives, protect jobs and get the global economy moving again faster than any other option.
Launched in early April, COVID-Zero aims to help cover the urgent global funding shortfall of $8 billion for vaccines, treatments and tests for coronavirus. This initial funding – a fraction of what governments have found to protect their economies – would provide the resources needed both to research and develop drugs and vaccines, and to ensure the world has the capacity to manufacture and deliver these tools at the speed and scale required to solve this pandemic. COVID-Zero is looking to raise an initial $1 billion of this $8 billion total from businesses and philanthropy.
So far $21.8 million has been pledged by COVID-Zero coalition members. In total, only $1.98 billion of the $8 billion needed has been committed by businesses, philanthropists and governments.
Scientists globally are working at tremendous pace to develop vaccines, test existing drugs that could treat COVID-19 and improve diagnostic tests. But they are running out of funding fast which means new developments may never reach clinical trials and, ultimately, achieve regulatory approval.
On Friday, the European Union announced it was joining forces with global partners to kick-start a worldwide pledging effort – the Coronavirus Global Response – starting on 4 May 2020.
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said: "It’s encouraging to see the private sector stepping up and providing vital support to vaccines, treatments and tests. Science is the only exit strategy for this pandemic and an initial $8 billion is urgently needed to get this vital work underway. Otherwise, COVID-19 will plague society and businesses for months, if not years, to come. We will be trapped in a repeated cycle of lockdowns and social distancing, with devastating health, economic and social consequences.
"I’m delighted to say that many more businesses and individuals have signalled an intention to make significant donations through COVID-Zero, and I strongly encourage others to join them. It’s the best investment a business can make today. It will take a monumental global effort to tackle this virus – governments, businesses and organisations across the whole of society, many not usually involved in public health, all have essential roles to play."
These new commitments add to previous private sector donations to COVID-19 research. Mastercard contributed $25m to set up the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator in March, with Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Partners of the investment fund Citadel, the athletic clothing company LuluLemon, and gaming studios Ndemic Creations and WePlay have donated to CEPI.
Through COVID-Zero, funding is directed to the following organisations who are coordinating the global R&D response to this crisis:
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), who are supporting the accelerated development of multiple vaccine candidates globally.
The Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which is funding research into affordable and accessible medicines.
The Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND), who are driving innovation in the development and delivery of tests.
The WHO Solidarity Response Fund, who will ensure these innovations reach the people who need them the most.