Novartis, Life Sciences Consortium, And Gates Foundation Collaborate On COVID-19

By Amit Chowdhry ● March 26, 2020
  • Novartis and a consortium of life sciences companies are collaborating to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines

Novartis and a consortium of life sciences companies have announced 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 wide range of assets, resources, and expertise needed to identify effective and scalable solutions to the pandemic that is affecting billions worldwide.

The effects on health systems, economies, and livelihoods are significant. And effective response requires an unprecedented collaboration across government, academia, private sector, and philanthropy.

“We feel a deep shared responsibility to see if there are specific areas where collaboration across the life sciences industry and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation can accelerate solutions to this pandemic. In addition to the individual contributions companies are already making, collective action is critical to ensure any promising studies into vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics are quickly scaled to people around the world who are affected by this pandemic,” said Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan.

The trials of existing drugs, diagnostic tests, compounds, and investigational vaccines have begun around the world to identify interventions to slow or end the pandemic. And products that demonstrate efficacy will require clinical study, scale up of manufacturing, and distribution if proven effective. These are areas that the life sciences industry has extensive experience in managing for products that reach billions of people every day.

“We know that the private sector is where the technical skills from discovery to clinical trials to commercialization know-how sits. We look to harness that knowledge and experience, combine it where possible, to connect with national regulators and the World Health Organization to see if we can help flatten the curve of this pandemic and make sure the results reach everyone around the world, particularly those at highest risk and the poorest,” explained Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

After a conference call with Gates Foundation leadership earlier this month, companies are working to identify concrete actions that will accelerate treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics to the field. And 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.

The Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard launched the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator a couple of weeks ago. And the hits from the accelerator will move rapidly into in vivo trials in as little as 2 months. The companies participating in the collaboration include BD, Boehringer Ingelheim, bioMerieux, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, J&J, Merck (MSD), Merck (Merck KGaA), Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi.