Biden to invest US$3 bn to boost Covid-19 drug discovery

As part of the American Rescue Plan, the Biden Administration is investing more than US$3 billion to accelerate the discovery, development and manufacturing of antiviral medicines as part of the whole-of-government strategy to develop the next generation of Covid-19 treatments.

Through collaboration within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), this plan – called 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. 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.

The Biden Administration continues to identify effective treatment options that can prevent people diagnosed with Covid-19 from progressing to serious illness and death. Highly effective oral antiviral medicines that can be taken at home early in the course of infection, similar to antiviral treatment for influenza, would save lives both in the US and abroad and prevent overwhelming surges in hospitalisations. This plan will support research to identify and accelerate availability of breakthrough treatment options to ensure the public has access to viable medicines.

“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 NIAID Director. “Through multidisciplinary collaborations among leading scientists in academia and industry, this investment from the American Rescue Plan to create the Antiviral Program for Pandemics will help inspire medical innovation and build on the extraordinary success we have seen in developing the Covid-19 vaccines.”

“The remarkable and rapid development of vaccines and testing technology has shown how agile scientific discovery can be when we combine the resources of public agencies, private entities, and our nation’s most brilliant and creative minds,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, NIH Director. “We will leverage these same strengths as we construct a platform for the discovery and development of effective antivirals that will help us defeat Covid-19 and better prepare us for potential future viral pathogens.”

The plan provides more than US$300 million for research and lab support, nearly US$1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation, and nearly US$700 million for development and manufacturing through NIAID and BARDA. Additionally, the plan allocates up to US$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.

Image credit: Jon Tyson

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