Back to School 2020
Governments must work alongside industry to fill the cracks exposed by COVID-19 before the next, inevitable, pandemic
When next crisis hits, the world should be able to turn to a stockpile of countermeasures and an efficient system for manufacturing, distributing them
Public sector leaders must step forward to prepare for future pandemics by improving surveillance, investing in countermeasures R&D, creating markets for antibiotics, and building surge capacity for manufacturing and diagnostics.
This is the fifth and final article in BioCentury’s 28th Annual Back to School package. In the opening piece, BioCentury called on biopharma to convert its COVID response to a new era of efficient drug development and address the urgent healthcare chasms exposed by the crisis.
As bad as COVID-19 has been, the next pandemic — and there will be more — could be far worse unless societies step up to the challenge by investing in drug, vaccine and diagnostics R&D, surge manufacturing capacity, and early warning disease surveillance systems.
The COVID catastrophe is tragic in part because it was predictable. Alarms have been ignored for decades and promises to prepare, including by developing coronavirus countermeasures, have been broken.
This time must be different.
COVID-19 has exposed the outmoded infrastructure that meant development of vaccines and therapies started on a back foot. Governments had to rush in to shore up manufacturing capacity that should have been in place and make bets on unproven technologies that could have been tested years ago.
In the U.S., Operation Warp Speed is racing to fill the gap for its own citizens by clearing regulatory and logistic roadblocks, supporting R&D, creating manufacturing capacity and procuring vaccines and therapies. The EU and European governments, such as those of the U.K. and Germany, have followed suit, while China and Russia have engaged in their own development and manufacturing operations.
There have been some attempts to ensure that people living in Africa, South America and large parts of Asia are not left behind, but these may be too little and too late. The international community has failed to muster sufficient manufacturing capacity or agree on distribution processes that will ensure global access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. For a year or more after effective