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Sorting out COVID-19 consortia

A side-by-side comparison of who’s doing what among COVID-19 consortia

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Several consortia have brought together biopharmas, government agencies, non-profits, academics and VCs to accelerate the development of COVID-19 countermeasures. These groups have both distinct and overlapping objectives that collectively span preclinical research to distribution of marketed products. Whether their areas of overlap create redundancies remains to be seen.


Figure: COVID-19 consortia objectives

Source: BioCentury reporting, public announcements

Among the largest are COVID R&D, which comprises at least R&D leaders of 15 biopharma companies, two VCs and Keith Gottesdiener, former CEO of Rhythm Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:RYTM); Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV), organized by NIH and FNIH; and the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) (see “Collaborating to Clobber COVID-19”).

Another group -- the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium -- is focused on providing access to computing power, software, storage and technical expertise to help COVID-19 researchers implement complex computational projects.

While the computing consortium aims to fill a niche in the ecosystem, the other consortia have multiple objectives that are the same. For example, the other three consortia are all working on prioritizing existing therapies to repurpose for COVID-19 trials. It’s not clear yet if this overlap is needed or if it’s inefficient.

It’s also possible the consortia will evolve over time to focus on a subset of their current objectives.

In addition to these consortia, the U.S. government has launched at least three large-scale, multi-agency COVID-19 initiatives.

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed aims to manufacture and distribute 300 million doses of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by January 2021. On May 21, the program gained access to the vaccine AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) that AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN) licensed from the University of Oxford, committing up to $1.2 billion in its development and manufacturing (see “With AZ deal, Operation Warp Speed Takes First Step to Train Guns on Coronavirus”).

NIH is working with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), CDC and FDA on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, which launched in April to fuel development of rapid diagnostics for COVID-19 (see “NIH Competition to Encourage COVID-19 Diagnostic Innovation”).

And CDC is leading SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology, and Surveillance (SPHERES), a national consortium organizing virus sequencing efforts across the U.S. Four U.K. public health agencies, regional university hubs and large sequencing centers such as the Wellcome Sanger Institute are collaborating on a similar program in the U.K. called COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK).

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