Pipeline is bare: more funding needed to develop new COVID-19 drugs - Wellcome

LONDON (Reuters) - More funding is needed to develop new therapies to treat COVID-19, officials at global health charity Wellcome said on Wednesday as they warned about the low pipeline of drugs to curb the pandemic that has killed more than one million people.

Potential vaccines have received about six times more funding than for therapies, said Nick Cammack, who is in charge of COVID-19 therapeutics at Wellcome.

The generic steroid dexamethasone and Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir have been approved for treating patients with severe symptoms while research into experimental antibody treatments continues.

Many studies have also focused on repurposing existing drugs and companies are scouring their existing portfolios for possible solutions.

But Cammack said the pipeline for new drugs that could reduce the need for hospitalisations and critical care is “bare”.

“What we really need is a drug that works at all stages of the disease,” he said on a call with media.

“We are at risk of having a deficit of high-quality new treatments,” he said, calling for more collaboration between drug companies and more public sector funding.

His comments echo those of the World Health Organization which is seeking to raise cash for research into potential vaccines, drugs and diagnostics to fight the pandemic.

Cammack is Wellcome’s lead at the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator initiative set up by Wellcome, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard.

Reporting by Josephine Mason in London and Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Kirsten Donovan