Funding floodgates open for COVID-19 research

By Samantha Black, PhD, The Science Advisory Board staff writer

April 2, 2020 -- The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt around the world. Researchers are working at a record-setting pace to understand the novel coronavirus and develop and test therapies. As seen by recent funding announcements, mitigating the economic effects of this crisis is a top priority for the global community.

Over 30 antiviral drugs are being tested for treatment of COVID-19 and over 20 vaccines are currently in development, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). In addition to the individual and collaborative contribution of pharmaceutical companies, funding agencies and organizations are prioritizing these efforts in new COVID-19-specific funding announcements.

On March 27, the U.S. passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, with over $340 billion allocated to various federal agencies. Some of the funding will directly support research and development efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in the U.S. including:

  • $945.5 million -- National Institutes of Health
  • $127.5 million -- Department of Energy
  • $80 million -- Food and Drug Administration
  • $76 million-- National Science Foundation
  • $10 million -- National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals
  • $6 million-- National Institute of Standards and Technology

As time passes, we hope to see this funding come to fruition with successful treatments and vaccines.

Selected March 2020 COVID-19-related R&D funding announcements
Source Recipients Amount Details
France National Research Agency and others €5 billion ($5.479 billion) The investment marks increase over 10 years to the country's science budget. According to Reuters, 20% will go towards preparing for possible future epidemics. The funding encompasses €50 million ($54.8 million) in emergency funding for COVID-19 vaccine research.
U.S. NIH $945.5 million "[F]or vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic research to increase our understanding of COVID-19, including underlying risks to cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions. When combined with the first supplemental, the Congress has provided $1.78 billion for NIH research."
U.K. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) £260 million ($322.3 million) The funding for vaccine development as part of CEPI's worldwide public-private partnership.
German Federal Ministry of Education and Research The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation €140 million ($153.3 million) The spending is for vaccine development as part of CEPI's worldwide public-private partnership.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome and Mastercard The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and partners, including the WHO, governments and drug companies $125 million The donation will provide seed funding for drug development, scale-up and manufacturing.
U.S. U.S. Department of Energy/Office of Science $99.5 million "To support operations of the national laboratory scientific user facilities, including equipment, enabling technologies, and personnel to support research and development efforts related to coronavirus."
Innovative Medicines Initiative Consortia made up of universities and small and medium sized companies €45 million ($49.3 million) To develop treatments and diagnostics for COVID-10, as well as future potential outbreaks, including repurposing of existing drugs. Specific areas for investment are development of antivirals and other therapeutics, development of diagnostics based on existing technology, development of detection tools, such as point-of-care solutions. The project excludes development of preventative vaccines.
Spain Not specified €30 million ($32.9 million) According to El País, the investment includes funding for vaccine research.
Canada (as part of its COVID-19 Response Fund) 47 research teams CAN 27 million ($19 million) To fund antivirals research, vaccine development and clinical trials. This adds to the CAN 10 million previously pledged for research.

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