The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is designed to bring together resources and expertise to reduce financial and technical risks for academic research, biotech and pharmaceutical development, as well as ensuring that new treatments are accessible and affordable.

The Gates Foundation said the accelerator will immediately focus on COVID-19 in identifying, assessing, developing and scaling-up new and re-purposed drugs and biologics. The project will, however, have a long-range plan to fight viral pathogens in general through work on broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies.

Foundation chief executive Mark Suzman, said: “Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but the development of vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly. 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.”

The Gates Foundation will contribute up to $US50 million – half of the $US100 million it has already committed towards efforts against COVID-19 – while Wellcome will contribute an equal amount and the Mastercard Impact Fund up to $US 25 million.

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will operate jointly as an initiative of its funders, drawing on expertise from inside and outside their organisations.

Mastercard created its Impact Fund in 2018 by committing 20% of the savings it received from US and European tax cuts. It was planned that the non-profit organisation would award up to $US500 million in charitable grants.

Mastercard vice chairman Mike Froman said: “Our experience with financial inclusion shows us the importance of building a network of parties who bring not only their capital but complementary assets and skill-sets to the table, and we welcome other partners concerned about inclusive growth to join this effort.”

According to the Gates Foundation, the accelerator will pursue several aspects of the development cycle to streamline the pathway from candidate product to clinical assessment, use, and manufacturing. To identify candidate compounds, the accelerator will:

  • Test approved drugs for activity against COVID-19;
  • Screen libraries of thousands of compounds with confirmed safety data, and
  • Consider new investigational compounds and monoclonal antibodies.

Drugs or monoclonal antibodies that pass initial screening will be developed by an industry partner. The accelerator will rely on biopharmaceutical organisations to contribute compound libraries and clinical data, as well as commercialisation and other expertise needed to scale up successful drugs and monoclonal antibodies.