The U.S. is investing $3.2 billion for the development of antiviral drugs to treat Covid-19 and other viruses with potential to cause pandemics.
The new program, called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics aims to develop safe and effective antivirals to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and will build sustainable platforms for targeted drug discovery and development of antivirals against viruses with pandemic potential.
The program funded through the American Rescue Plan is a “whole-of-government effort” and is a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program will allow the NIH to speed up the development and clinical trials of promising antiviral drugs.
It is known that The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. Additional treatments have been recently approved by the Agency. This includes the high titer COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy only for hospitalized patients who have impaired humoral immunity; and the monoclonal antibody therapy with sotrovimab for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19. In fact, the NIH is now reviewing new potential therapies for COVID-19, such as cell-based, immunomodulatory, and antithrombotic treatments, and the FDA is analysing a final-stage study on molnupiravir, an oral antiviral pill, in hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection.
Overall, the Antiviral Program for Pandemics plans to allocate the $3.2 billion into four cooperative programs: $1.2 billion for innovation and discovery of antiviral drugs, $300 million for research support, $700 million for the development and manufacturing of new drugs, and almost $1 billion in preclinical and clinical trials.
Francis S. Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement: “The remarkable and rapid development of vaccines and testing technology has shown how agile scientific discovery can be when we combine the resources of public agencies, private entities, and our nation’s most brilliant and creative minds. We will leverage these same strengths as we construct a platform for the discovery and development of effective antivirals that will help us defeat COVID-19 and better prepare us for potential future viral pathogens.”
Codivir, a short synthetic 16 amino-acid peptide was originally discovered at the Hebrew University in Israel, and later Code Pharma, a Dutch pharmaceutical company, discovered that the peptide had a direct antiviral effect against SARS-CoV-2. In vitro studies conducted at the British virology research laboratory demonstrated a potent antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2.