Is the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator a physical organization? Where is it based and who runs it?  

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (CTA) was launched in March 2020 by Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard, with additional funding from a range of donors. It is a philanthropic collaboration which benefits from the expertise and resources of its funding and technical partner organizations, as well as external experts.  

It takes a truly end-to-end approach in the drug development process and draws on the talents of individuals with expertise in drug and monoclonal development, chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC), supply chain, and regulatory affairs.  

The CTA’s governance model enables quick decision-making and allows it to provide fast and flexible funding to help remove bottlenecks in the drug development and scale-up process. 

What does the CTA do? 

The CTA provides funding to multiple grantees working across the R&D spectrum to help speed up the development of COVID-19 therapeutics. By funding adaptive clinical trials and cutting-edge methods, we hope to accelerate the development cycle while maintaining the highest safety standards.   

With the CTA’s support, researchers are screening registered drugs that have approval and safety and efficacy data for non-COVID-19 uses, and compounds from libraries that have human safety data. The timeline for any of these products that show promise against COVID-19 being used in the pandemic response could be within a year, and some clinical trials using registered drugs are underway to test their efficacy against COVID-19. 

In addition, the CTA is supporting initiatives to build platforms that facilitate data sharing and collaboration among global researchers to help streamline R&D efforts. 

There will be future efforts to help develop new therapies that could be used for treatment or prophylaxis against COVID-19 and the CTA is helping to fund manufacturing capacity to minimize any delays in production once they are discovered and approved.  

How does this initiative complement the landscape of efforts to develop COVID-19 treatments?  

The CTA works to address gaps in existing treatment research and coordinates funding from the private and philanthropic sectors, as well as governments, to help remove bottlenecks in drug development and scale-up to help advance promising treatment candidates.   

Through this work, the CTA is also supporting research and development structures that have the potential to quickly adapt to analyze different treatment candidates in the event some don’t work, thus increasing the speed with which we can find effective therapeutics.  

The CTA draws on lessons learned from the response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the need to ensure research efforts are streamlined and not duplicated.  

How does the CTA work with the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A)? 

The CTA is represented by donors in the Therapeutics Partnership of ACT-A  – the global response program bringing together governments, health organizations, scientists, business, civil society, and philanthropists to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. 

Within the Therapeutics Partnership, the CTA is focused on providing support to identify drugs and treatments that can help prevent cases of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations and treat mild and moderate cases of the disease. This complements the work of other R&D initiatives focused on finding treatments for severe COVID-19 cases. 

The CTA collaborates with other organizations in the Therapeutics Partnership, such as Unitaid, to support development of the procurement and delivery frameworks necessary for effective treatments to reach people in low- and middle-income countries.

How much total funding is needed to get effective treatments for COVID-19?   

In June 2020, the ACT-A released its investment case, which outlines the likely funding requirement over the next year to find, scale-up and deliver 245 million courses of treatment in low- and middle-income countries. 

These costs are estimates, and the actual funding requirements will depend, in part, on which drugs and treatments are found to be effective against COVID-19. 

Why is it important to work in parallel to develop vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19?   

There is no single approach to ending the pandemic – diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, along with strengthening health systems, will all play a vital role in bringing COVID-19 under control. 

Funding for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics should happen in parallel to increase our chances of successfully tackling COVID-19. It is critical that CEPI is adequately funded to continue research and development for effective COVID-19 vaccines. At the same time, governments, industry and philanthropy must continue supporting R&D into effective therapeutics as these will be vital to reducing the severity of disease and saving lives, including once a vaccine is available.  

Why are the private sector and philanthropic funders leading the Therapeutics Accelerator’s work? What’s the role of governments? 

Governments, along with the private and philanthropic sectors, have an important role to play in finding effective treatments for COVID-19. The CTA coordinates closely with governments via the ACT-A in an effort to speed up the development of drugs and therapies and help lay the foundation for their availability in low- and middle-income countries.

How is this effort different than other efforts?

The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is distinct from other similar efforts including:

  • Focused on securing prompt and affordable access of products in LMICs
  • End to end focus, including manufacturing and scale-up
  • Agile and flexible funding processes, including at-risk to accelerate
  • Payout has no geographic restrictions
  • Focused on pre- and post- exposure prophylaxis for high-risk individuals as well as mild/moderate disease treatment

Why is the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator supporting a Gates Foundation subsidiary, the Gates Medical Research Institute? 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute is a non-profit biotech organization focused on accelerating product development for infectious diseases. The Institute has the expertise and capability to conduct clinical trials in line with its mission, in coordination with research partners. Gates Philanthropy Partners, which serves as the philanthropic arm of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, is contributing to an investment in the Gates Medical Research Institute to conduct these trials after consulting and/or informing the Core Donors.