US to pump in $3bn more to develop antiviral drugs against Covid


The Biden administration has announced plans to invest more than $3 billion to accelerate the discovery, development and manufacturing of antiviral drugs to combat Covid-19.

The Antiviral Program for Pandemics will respond to the urgent need for antivirals to treat Covid-19 by spurring the availability of medicines to prevent serious illness and save lives, the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement on Thursday.

The programme aims to develop highly effective oral antiviral medicines that can be taken at home early in the course of infection, similar to antiviral treatment for influenza. This would prevent overwhelming surges in hospitalisations and save lives. This plan will support research to identify and accelerate availability of breakthrough treatment options to ensure the public has access to viable medicines.

It also will build sustainable platforms for discovery and development of antivirals for other viruses with pandemic potential, helping better prepare the nation to face future viral threats.

“New antivirals that prevent serious Covid-19 illness and death, especially oral drugs that could be taken at home early in the course of disease, would be powerful tools for battling the pandemic and saving lives,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the President and Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in the statement.

As part of the plan, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will evaluate, prioritise and advance antiviral candidates to Phase 2 clinical trials. The plan provides more than $300 million for research and lab support, nearly $1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation, and nearly $700 million for development and manufacturing through NIAID and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

Additionally, the plan allocates up to $1.2 billion to support the creation of collaborative drug discovery groups called Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern that will harness the creativity of the biomedical research community and drive innovative antiviral drug discovery and development.

These centres will create platforms that will initially target coronaviruses, and then could be expanded to other viruses with pandemic potential – helping to better prepare the nation for future viral threats.