US, May 8, 2020.– Any help today is scarce to combat Covid19, one of the most deadly viruses that humanity has faced. However, there are solidarity actions that must be remembered because they can bring solutions to the hell we have been experiencing in recent weeks. Many institutions, public and private, have opted to save lives in the first place. I want to highlight the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for donating $ 250 million to WHO (WHO’s second largest donor).
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is a magnificent example of solidarity to study in Business Schools around the world. After creating one of the technology giants along with others like Google, Apple, IBM or Samsung, Bill Gates, along with his wife, have dedicated their lives to solidarity causes (climate change, gender equality, prioritizing talent over titles) academics, etc.) to make a better world. And surely they have succeeded. And you and I have benefited. This solidarity work led him to deliver a premonitory speech in 2015. Incredibly, Bill Gates advanced in this TED talk, the current pandemic:
The Gates Foundation highlights: Epidemics introduce a paradox to the world. Viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly but developing vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly. If we want to make people, particularly the most vulnerable, safer from outbreaks then we need to find a way to unwind this paradox: to speed up R&D and slow down the spread.
The only way to treat a viral infection, such as COVID-19, is with antiviral drugs. Right now, we can only treat the symptoms since there simply aren’t antiviral medications that can treat a range of conditions in the same way that antibiotics do for bacterial infections. This is where we believe we can help by partnering with private and philanthropic enterprises to lower the financial risk and technical barriers for biotech and pharmaceutical companies developing antivirals for COVID-19.
One of the biggest challenges is that it takes many days or weeks to understand exactly what path a novel pathogen like COVID-19 is going to take. Earlier in this century, two other coronaviruses epidemics – SARS and MERS – demonstrated pandemic potential, but both were ultimately stopped. With COVID-19, there were worrisome indications early on about its pandemic potential – given the fact that it is highly transmissible.
Many pharmaceutical companies immediately swung into action to develop candidate vaccines and identify potential treatments. But no pharmaceutical company in the world has the capacity to work at risk to take the next steps required to launch large-scale clinical trials or produce hundreds of millions of doses without knowing if there is going to be a need or demand for their product. Just the cost of building or refitting a single manufacturing facility for vaccines could run up to $100 million.
So, while pharmas are quite capable of producing candidate products in short order, they need strong funding from governments or philanthropies to de-risk the next steps in the product development process. They aren’t going to be able take the next step without partners.
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