UK charity pledges £10 mil for Covid-19 therapeutics

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Life science and medical research charity LifeArc has pledged an initial £10 million for the identification of therapeutics that can be rapidly deployed to treat Covid-19.

The British charity is now calling for applications from academics, the UK’s National Health Service employees or companies from any geographical locations that have therapeutics that could be repurposed or repositioned for use in Covid-19 patients.

“The aim is to run trials on patients during the current epidemic. It is anticipated that applications will be for funding to repurpose one or more drugs that are generic, already licensed, or are in late stage development for another indication,” the charity says on its website. 

The coronavirus disease, now commonly referred to as Covid-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation last month. 

LifeArc says the development and testing of a vaccine will take at least a year and it may be two years before there is good protection across the most vulnerable groups. “There is a clear need for new treatments that will reduce the mortality rate while we wait for a vaccine.

“Development of novel molecules is not thought to be realistic in the time frame needed to impact this pandemic. So, the focus for this call is on repurposing already available drugs (including biologics) or those in late stages of development.”

As the primary purpose is to accelerate the availability of treatments, LifeArc says applicants are expected to already have material available for testing and a plan for rapid scale up of clinical material. Priority will be given to projects that have a clear path and availability for patients in a 6 to 12 months’ time frame, it adds.

“Plans for the structure of the clinical trials should be in advanced stages of development and should follow the specialist guidance from the regulators on Covid-19 trials. The expectation is that the data obtained will be shared openly and, where knowledge obtained could benefit the development of other Covid-19 therapeutics, this should be done as quickly as is reasonably possible,” says LifeArc. 

According to the details on the website, grants will be awarded rapidly under standard, non-negotiable terms. “LifeArc will not seek any financial return on these grants and it will not take any equity stakes or other revenue return. It is expected that those receiving funding will respect the spirit of the award and, where relevant, prioritise Covid-19 patients’ access over any potential for profit,” it says.

“The grant will pay for the direct costs of the trials and the science associated with that. There is no official cap on the size of applications. However, it is anticipated that a small number of the most promising projects will be funded from the £10 million currently available. Applications for funding to supplement existing funding to enable a Covid-19 trial will also be eligible.”

The deadline for applications is April 6. For more information on the fund and application process visit https://www.lifearc.org/funding/covid-19/covid-19-funding/