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Novartis Collaborates with Life Sciences Companies for Development of COVID-19 Vaccines and Diagnostics

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 31 Mar 2020
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Novartis AG (Basel, Switzerland) and a consortium of life sciences companies have entered into a collaboration to accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for COVID-19 in response to the pandemic. The industry brings a range of assets, resources, and expertise needed to identify effective and scalable solutions to the pandemic that is affecting billions worldwide. The companies participating in the collaboration include BD, bioMérieux, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

Following a conference call with the leadership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this month, the companies are now 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 recently to quickly screen them for potential against COVID-19. Successful hits would move rapidly into in vivo trials in as little as two months.

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with COVID-19 in the immediate term, and other viral pathogens in the longer-term. The Accelerator will have an end-to-end focus, from drug pipeline development through manufacturing and scale-up. 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 take a three-pronged approach: testing approved drugs for activity against COVID-19, screening libraries of thousands of compounds with confirmed safety data, and considering new investigational compounds and monoclonal antibodies. Drugs or monoclonal antibodies that pass initial screening would then be developed by an industry partner. The biotech and pharmaceutical industries will be critical partners, bringing their compound libraries and clinical data to the collaboration and lending commercialization and other expertise that will be required to scale up successful drugs and monoclonal antibodies.

“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 Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “While each of the partners will also be pursuing other efforts in partnership with national governments and other partners, it is a great example of why 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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