Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Mastercard fund COVID-19 clinical trials

SEATTLE, Researchers at three institutions in the US and UK have received grants to advance studies of repurposed drugs and novel antibodies in a bid to combat COVID-19.

Partners in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard – announced on Tuesday grants of US$20 million to three institutions to fund clinical trials to identify “highly potent immunotherapies” for the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant recipients are the University of Washington, University of Oxford and La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Currently, there are no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Two of the newly announced trials will fund an investigation of two well-established drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, that have known antiviral properties.

These drugs have been used to treat malaria and a variety of rheumatological conditions for more than 50 years.

While these two drugs have shown promise in early studies to treat COVID-19 patients, a need for large, randomised controlled trials are still needed to determine effectiveness.

Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman noted that the grants will advance the understanding of how existing drugs and antibodies can contribute to addressing the pandemic.

The initial investments via the accelerator will bring “rigor” to the study of potential solutions, allowing for a way forward through “sound science and shared data,” he added.

Multiple trial testing methods were noted in a statement by the Gates Foundation. First of which will be a multi-cite clinical trial conducted by the University of Washington in Western Washington and the New York City Area. The trial will enrol up to 2,000 asymptomatic men and women who are close contacts of persons with confirmed or pending COVID-19 diagnoses.

Held in cooperation with the New York University’s School of Medicine, the drug trial will investigate whether hydroxychloroquine can effectively prevent COVID-19 in people already exposed to the infection.

The Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, MORU, will also lead a placebo-controlled prophylaxis study of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in preventing COVID-19 in at-risk health care workers, frontline staff, and other high-risk groups.

At least 40,000 participants in Asia and Europe will be randomised to receive either chloroquine (East Asian countries), hydroxychloroquine (United Kingdom and Europe), or a matched film-coated placebo as daily prophylaxis for three months.

The Gates Foundation noted that both drug trials will begin participant enrolment in April, with results of the trials available in late 2020.

In addition to funding drug trials, the accelerator will provide $1.73 million to the La Jolla Institute for Immunology to establish a Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, known as CoVIC. The effort will bring together scientists from around the world and enable them to share and evaluate candidate antibodies side by side in a blinded, multidisciplinary analysis to identify ideal therapeutic combinations.

Source: Emirates News Agency

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