Mark Suzman — CEO at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — wrote a blog post on LinkedIn Pulse, a business blog, where he announced a $125 million fund — called the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator — to accelerate the interdisciplinary push to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
UPDATE April 15, 10:17 PM EDT: Gates Foundation commits additional $150 million against COVID-19 after Bill Gates criticized Trump for ceasing WHO support
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation declared in a press release that it would throw another $150 million toward the global fight to curb the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, lifting the charity's total funds to $250 million, reports Business Insider.
The charity also said the new funds would be directed toward developing testing, treatments, and viable vaccines for the COVID-19 illness, in addition to helping partners in South Asia and Africa enhance their "detection, treatment, and isolation efforts."
"It is increasingly clear that the world's response to this pandemic will not be effective unless it is also equitable," said the charity's co-chair Melinda Gates, who added that the new funds "will support efforts against COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries, where local leaders and healthcare workers are doing heroic work to protect vulnerable communities."
This latest announcement from the charity came on the heels of Bill Gates' criticism of President Donald Trump's decision to retract U.S. financial support of the World Health Organization. Tuesday night, Trump announced he would halt the $400 million to $500 million of U.S. funding for the international organization, pending a domestic investigation into what Trump sees as WHO's helping China to "cover-up" a larger extent of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
After Trump's declaration, Bill Gates said: "Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds."
Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020
"COVID-19 doesn't obey border laws," said Gates in Wednesday's press release. "The world community must understand that so long as COVID-19 is somewhere, we need to act as if it were everywhere. BEating this pandemic will require an unprecedented level of international funding and cooperation."
$125 million pledged to COVID-19 therapeutics accelerator
In a joint-venture with Wellcome Trust and Mastercard, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is stepping-up financial efforts to combat the novel coronavirus, to the tune of $125 million, said Mark Suzman in the professional blog, LinkedIn Pulse. The funds are to help identify and move up the timetable for possible COVID-19 treatments and help the world prepare to manufacture millions of doses for global use.
Pharmaceutical companies will be crucial for this endeavor, argues Suzman, called the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
Curbing the coronavirus epidemic
Epidemics present the world community with a paradoxical set of challenges. Rampant viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly while the schedule for developing vaccines and treatments to fight their proliferation moves slowly. Suzman argues that if we want to make the most vulnerable people safer from outbreaks, then we need to "unwind" this paradox, which means speeding up R&D and slowing down the spread, said Suzman.
It sounds like a truism to say that antiviral drugs are the only way to fight COVID-19, but it's relevant when, as Suzman suggests, all we can do — without functional antiviral medications capable of treating a range of disparate conditions — is treat symptoms. What we need, he suggests, is a solution similar to what antibiotics do for bacterial infections.
In partnering with private and philanthropic enterprises to bring down the ceiling of financial risk, and lower technical barriers for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, Suzman argues that the new COVID-19 treatment accelerator will make the development of antivirals for coronavirus more feasible on a shorter timeline.
Searching for a Vaccine
The most effective way to prevent the spread of an infectious disease is with a vaccine, and in 2017, Suzman goes on, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was founded with almost $650 million from Japan, Norway, Germany, Wellcome, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since then, others including Canada, Australia, Belgium, the UK, Ethiopia, and the European Commission have joined to effectively reduce development timetables on vaccines for emerging epidemics and ensure accessibility, affordability, and availability.
Suzman attributes the speed at which companies have, so far, worked to procure an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, in part, to CEPI.
Suzman states the goal of COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is to help the development of a coronavirus treatment as CEPI has for vaccines. While this requires massive collaboration between the private sector, governments, and philanthropic organizations to take immediate action in the funding of drugs to be rapidly developed and mass-produced for speedy delivery, Suzman argues that increased database development will allow all parties to monitor progress.