The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Sixteen global pharmaceutical companies have joined hands for the biggest ever R&D response effort to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines against COVID-19 pandemic and make it accessible across the world.
In a joint communique today, the heads of all 17 organisations have said that the partnership takes forward the individual efforts of each of these companies to develop innovations for patients worldwide by scaling up and manufacturing it at an unprecedented speed, put in supply mechanisms and make it affordable for lower income countries for effective and equitable distribution through joint efforts.
"We will continue advancing the research and development of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines that are suitable to meet the needs of populations around the world. To do so, we will work to expand clinical trials to account for diverse representation including lower-income settings and endeavour to address the specific product characteristics needed for use in lower-income settings even after new innovations are brought forward," the statement says.
The signatories of the partnership are AstraZeneca, Bayer, bioMerieux, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co. (SD), Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
They pledge to pursue a range of approaches to make products they are developing or supporting affordable in lower-income countries. "These approaches will be independently determined by each supplier in response to the pandemic to address the significant affordability challenges, including approaches such as donations, not-for-profit supply, or equity-based tiered pricing based on countries' needs and capabilities," the statement said.
The signatories state that access to interventions to fight COVID-19 on a global scale requires financial resources, assets, infrastructure, and jurisdictional support and collaboration beyond the capacity or role of each one of them. "We therefore call on governments, multilateral institutions, companies, NGOs, and others to build on our commitments and efforts already underway to provide sufficient, dedicated, sustainable, and timely funding for the procurement and delivery of the tools necessary to end the COVID-19 pandemic, diversify representation in critical decision-making and coordination bodies with special emphasis on voices representing low-income and lower-middle-income countries, continue quickly developing and communicating clear guidance on product needs in lower resource settings as early as possible as our understanding of COVID-19 and the tools to combat it evolve and advance fit-for-purpose regulatory and liability processes for all stakeholders involved, which prioritize safety while not slowing down access to critical new tools," the joint statement said.
The signatories also wanted stakeholders to help build and maintain public confidence in the approval mechanisms for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines by ensuring robust safety and efficacy reviews and removing unwarranted political considerations from these discussions and the approval process. They also wanted to see enhanced country readiness and in-country delivery systems by ensuring adequate expertise and resources for effective country planning, distribution, and follow-up for new diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.