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0907 Kessler Q-A
BioCentury & Getty Images

Politics, Policy & Law

COVID-19 antivirals could be ‘game-changers,’ Kessler says

Biden administration’s COVID CSO says strategies that tamed AIDS could help bring the pandemic under control

Biden administration’s COVID CSO says strategies that tamed AIDS could help bring the pandemic under control.

Sep 8, 2021 | 12:51 AM GMT

David Kessler has maintained a low profile in the nine months since President Joe Biden named him chief science officer for the administration’s COVID-19 response. The initiative, started under President Donald Trump as Operation Warp Speed, is now called the Countermeasures Acceleration Group. 

In a conversation Saturday with BioCentury, Kessler emphasized the continuity of the Countermeasures Acceleration Group (CAG) with its predecessor. 

The CAG has, however, plowed new ground, especially by putting resources into small molecule drug development. The Biden administration started work on antivirals for COVID in January, Kessler told BioCentury. It announced in June a $3.2 billion investment in the development of oral antivirals to treat COVID-19.

As its name suggested, Warp Speed emphasized quick results, prioritizing vaccines over therapeutics and favoring therapies such as mAbs and convalescent plasma that could be deployed quickly over longer-term drug development. OWS declined to make substantial investments in oral small molecules that were unlikely to be available in 2020.

Kessler’s experience as FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997, when he played a major role in advancing the development of effective AIDS treatments, is informing his approach to COVID. He noted the importance of

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