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A quick, coordinated effort across multiple sectors of society is needed to respond to the “generational public health crisis” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, two leading U.S. scientists say.
“It has been more than a century since the world has encountered a pandemic like coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the rate of spread of COVID-19 around the globe and the associated morbidity and mortality have been staggering,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Johnson & Johnson Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels wrote in their Viewpoint piece published Monday in JAMA Network. “To address what may be the greatest public health crisis of this generation, it is imperative that all sectors of society work together in unprecedented ways, with unprecedented speed.”
A public-private initiative known as AVTIC, which stands for Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines, has been organized by NIH in partnership with at least 18 leading biopharmaceutical companies, multiple U.S. federal agencies, and the European Medicines Agency, in order to develop an international strategy for an integrated research response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins and Stoffels highlight four key areas where ACTIV is continuing to make progress in the battle against the new coronavirus, which has infected over 4.7 million and killed at least 319,515 worldwide as of Monday afternoon.
For instance, the effort’s Therapeutics Clinical Working Group has completed an inventory of 170 therapeutic candidates that have acceptable safety profiles and different mechanisms of action; from that total, the group presented a list of repurposed agents for potential clinical trial. Next up, six of them — including immunomodulators and supportive therapies — are being proposed to move into “master protocol clinical trials” later in May.
The Vaccine Working Group will select among the most promising of vaccine candidates for a phase 2/3 adaptive trial platform that will use geographic networks in the U.S. and globally, with the aim of having candidates ready to enter clinical trials by July 1, 2020.
“While the activities of ACTIV remain a work in rapid progress, one main element is evident: a public-private biomedical research partnership of this scope and scale has never before come together in such a short time frame,” the scientists write.
“ACTIV’s partners have embraced the spirit of a principle attributed to President Harry S. Truman: ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,'” the scientists conclude. “Such an unprecedented partnership will be necessary to mount an effective and sustained response in these unprecedented times.”