Right time to fuse science with industry: Bonds built amid coronavirus will last forever

Published: May 11, 2020 6:19 PM

Partnerships and collaborations between science and industry can deliver a real impact and a preparedness infrastructure which can be mobilized for future outbreaks.

Pharmaceutical companies are focusing significant amounts of their resources on the immediate task ahead, which requires pushing the boundaries of science.
  • KG Ananthakrishnan

Today, more than ever, the entire world is looking for innovation and research to help combat the unprecedented COVID 19 public health crisis. Pharmaceutical companies are focusing significant amounts of their resources on the immediate task ahead, which requires pushing the boundaries of science, developing workable solutions and ensuring there is capacity to scale up manufacture once solutions are found, while at the same time ensuring continuity of global supply for critical products.

The entire research and scientific community has not wasted a single moment in its pursuit for a potential solution to this grave public health hazard.

The global pharmaceutical associations such as International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have publicly voiced the global biopharmaceutical industry’s commitment towards fighting the COVID 19 crisis. These associations have been sharing regular updates on the research that is currently underway, globally.

From these updates, it is clear, that the rapid virus sequencing has enabled researchers to characterize and begin to understand the new threat posed by COVID-19. Analysis of drugs and vaccines portfolios has involved scientists searching for potentially useful assets that could help with the development of new or repurposed treatments or vaccines to fight against the novel coronavirus. As highlighted by the global associations, no time was wasted in engaging in R&D collaboration as well – R&D biopharmaceutical companies are part of a wider research community which is collaborating to fast-track the development of therapeutics, diagnostics and new vaccines. Globally, R&D biopharmaceutical companies are already engaging with existing networks such as CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Europe’s IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative).

These partnerships and collaborations facilitate the creation of networks of centres of excellence that can deliver a real impact and a preparedness infrastructure which can be mobilized for future outbreaks. As reported, there are companies working on phase I studies for both vaccines and treatments, and one potential treatment already being tested for another disease is now in Phase III clinical trials. Potential treatments include both antiviral medicines and immunotherapies. It is estimated that there are as of now (March 2020) nearly 80 clinical trials for experimental new treatments and vaccines in development for coronaviruses including COVID-19, Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, SARS and MERS. Several biopharmaceutical companies are researching vaccine candidates for prevention and collaborating in the share of existing technologies that can be leveraged to allow a rapid upscale of production once a vaccine candidate is identified.

As part of the global health community, research-based pharmaceutical companies have a strong sense of responsibility to act together, as well as in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), governments and health systems across the world in a concerted, collective response.

Back home, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been undertaking studies on COVID 19 in the Indian sub-continent and has been sharing scientific updates and information on rapid response, tests and treatments. Recently, ICMR has shared that it will collaborate with the World Health Organization for the public health emergency SOLIDARITY TRIAL – An international randomised trial of additional treatments for COVID-19 in hospitalised patients.

The industry is committed to playing its role to help respond to this epidemic and we commit to continue collaborating with government agencies, academia and other healthcare stakeholders to ensure patients get the medicines and care, they need. All this can happen only as a result of one core competency-innovation. Innovation promotes development of new treatments and new cures to address unmet medical needs. Let’s remain steadfast in our commitment to research and development of new medicines that will allow patients live fuller and happier lives.

  • KG Ananthakrishnan is Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India. The views expressed here are gathered from global associations- IFPMA & PhRMA.

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