(Logo via Mastercard)

Mastercard: COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Awards $20 Million in Initial Grants to Fund Clinical Trials

Originally published on newsroom.mastercard.com.

Researchers at three institutions in the U.S. and U.K. receive grants to advance studies of repurposed drugs and novel antibodies in preventing COVID-19

The partners in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator announced grants of $20 million to three institutions—the University of Washington, University of Oxford, and La Jolla Institute for Immunology—to fund clinical trials in order to identify highly potent immunotherapies for the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants mark the first investments to come from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a large-scale initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationWellcome, and Mastercard to speed the development of and access to therapies for COVID-19. Currently, there are no broad-spectrum antivirals or immunotherapies available to prevent or treat COVID-19.

“These grants to leading institutions in their fields will advance our understanding of how existing drugs and antibodies can contribute to addressing the pandemic we’re facing around the world,” said Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “These initial investments through the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator will bring rigor to the study of these potential solutions. The way forward will be informed by sound science and shared data.”

In addition, newly announced funding from government and philanthropic donors has added to the Accelerator’s initial funding. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative committed $25 million and the U.K. government committed £40 million last week. The additional funds will allow the Accelerator to continue making grants to study repurposed drugs and investigate biological compounds for activity against COVID-19. More funding is needed to move promising therapies through development and scale-up.

Studying repurposed drugs to prevent infection

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. The trials aim to determine whether the drugs are effective as pre- and post-exposure preventive therapy for COVID-19. While these drugs both show initial promise, rigorous scientific evidence is needed to make decisions on how, where and within which populations to use them in this pandemic.

The University of Washington will conduct a multi-site clinical trial in Western Washington and the New York City area, in collaboration with New York University’s School of Medicine, investigating whether hydroxychloroquine can effectively prevent COVID-19 in people already exposed to the infection. The trial will enroll up to 2,000 asymptomatic men and women who are close contacts of persons with confirmed or pending COVID-19 diagnoses. Participants will be randomly assigned to take hydroxychloroquine or a placebo over two weeks, and samples will be collected and tested daily to confirm new COVID-19 infections across the two groups. Sandoz, a Novartis division, has donated the hydroxychloroquine doses needed to conduct the study. Participant enrollment will begin in April, and results will be available in late 2020.

The Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) will 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 randomized 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 one-year project, known as COPCOV, aims to determine definitively whether these drugs can prevent COVID-19 and thus protect the vital health care workforce. Participant enrollment will begin in April and initial results will be available by the end of the year.

Nick Cammack, COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead at Wellcome, said: “Investment in research is the world’s only exit strategy from COVID-19. Drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics are vital to saving lives, to ending this pandemic, and to preventing it from happening again. Now is the time to evaluate whether existing drugs will prove to be safe and effective. We urge others to join us in this collective global effort. Investing now, at scale, in the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is vital if we are to change the course of this pandemic.”

Advancing immunological therapies

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. Antibody therapies can be used to protect frontline health care workers, contacts, and others who are exposed, as well as treat those who have already become sick.

“Today’s grants are an important next step in the Therapeutic Accelerator’s commitment to identifying and scaling treatments to combat COVID-19,” said Mike Froman, vice chairman of Mastercard. “In order to provide therapeutic solutions to this global pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, we need to speed up the research and development process through a collaborative funding effort by the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and governments. We welcome the participation of additional organizations that can contribute the resources needed to help bring an end to this crisis.”

Latest News

woke politics

Republicans Launch a War on ‘Woke’ Politics in Hopes of Big Legislative Wins in 2022

In 2020, former President Barack Obama warned that the phrase “Defund the Police” could become a dangerous rallying cry for the conservative right. But now, Republicans have apparently taken that warning one step further, declaring war on all things “woke.” Allan Smith and Sahil Kapur of NBC News wrote that…

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…