U.S. Invests $3 Billion to Accelerate Antiviral Medicines

Antiviral Program for Pandemics will respond to the urgent need for antivirals to treat COVID-19
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Maryland (Precision Vaccinations)

The U.S. government announced it is investing more than $3 billion to accelerate the discovery, development, and manufacturing of antiviral medicines as part of the whole-of-government strategy to develop the next generation of COVID-19 treatments. 

Through collaboration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, this plan called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics will respond to the urgent need for antivirals to treat COVID-19 by spurring the availability of medicines to prevent serious illness and save lives, stated an NIH press statement issued on June 17, 2021.

The Antiviral Program for Pandemics plan also will build sustainable platforms for the discovery and development of antivirals for other viruses with pandemic potential, helping better prepare the nation to face future viral threats.  

Even as hundreds of millions of Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases, hospitalizations, and death rates fall, the U.S. Administration remains committed to identifying effective treatment options that can prevent people diagnosed with COVID-19 from progressing to severe illness and death. 

Highly effective oral antiviral medicines that can be taken at home early in the course of infection, similar to antiviral treatment for influenza, would save lives both here and abroad and prevent overwhelming surges in hospitalizations. 

This plan will support research to identify and accelerate the availability of breakthrough treatment options to ensure the public has access to viable medicines.

This plan accelerates and expands the Administration’s ongoing efforts to support clinical trials to test prioritized drug candidates for COVID-19 and support the advanced development of promising therapies. Working through an unprecedented public-private partnership called ACTIV (Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutics and Vaccines), 19 therapeutic agents have been prioritized for testing in rigorous clinical trials for outpatients and inpatients with COVID-19.

“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,” commented Dr. Francis S. Collins, NIH Director. 

“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.”

As part of the plan announced today, the NIH will evaluate, prioritize and advance antiviral candidates to Phase 2 clinical trials, using current and expanded contract resources and the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences laboratories to de-risk early-stage development with sponsors and guide candidates along development paths. 

The new plan provides more than $300 million for research and lab support, nearly $1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation, and almost $700 million for development and manufacturing.

Additionally, the plan allocates up to $1.2 billion to support creating collaborative drug discovery groups called Antiviral Drug Discovery Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern that will harness the creativity of the biomedical research community and drive innovative antiviral drug discovery and development. 

These centers will create platforms that will initially target coronaviruses and then could be expanded to other viruses with pandemic potential, helping to prepare the nation for future viral threats.

The National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency, making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. The NIH traces its roots to 1887, when a one-room laboratory was created within the Marine Hospital Service, the predecessor agency to the U.S. Public Health Service.

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