While the weekend sent global fears of a COVID-19 pandemic spiking, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director Rick Bright touted the speed at which public-private partnerships have acted on medical countermeasures.
BARDA has expanded agreements with three companies over the last month — progress the director labeled unprecedented. With a dedicated single point of entry for product developers to submit research, and eyes on any treatments that might fit the bill, BARDA expanded collaborations with Janssen Research and Development, as well as Sanofi, for new vaccine candidates. It also bolstered an agreement with Regeneron for new, multiple monoclonal antibody treatments.
“Strengthening health security in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak will take more than one single product,” Bright said. “To protect the American people from this new coronavirus, healthcare professionals need medical countermeasures that enable them to diagnose patients quickly and accurately, vaccinate people to prevent the spread of the virus, and treat infected people with effective therapeutics or antivirals.”
The Janssen agreement will see BARDA and Janssen share research and development costs to advance the company’s investigational novel coronavirus vaccine toward clinical evaluation. The process will be undertaken on Janssen’s rapid vaccine platform. At the same time, the Sanofi agreement will see similar vaccine efforts produced on its recombinant DNA platform. This, BARDA hopes, will create a vaccine with an exact genetic match to proteins of COVID-19.
As for the monoclonal antibodies being created by Regeneron, the goal is individual or combination treatments for COVID-19. Under an expanded agreement, libraries of compounds — think approved medicines and investigational compounds — with the potential to treat or minimize the damage of coronavirus infections will be screened.
Topping all of this was an Easy Broad Agency Announcement for COVID-19 molecular diagnostics — an effort by BARDA to encourage innovation using FDA-cleared platforms. Under new allowances, this award potential was broadened to include abstracts for nonclinical assays and models.
“BARDA and its partners throughout the federal government continue to look for new ways to collaborate on promising technologies,” Bright said. “This is the third coronavirus in less than 20 years, and it is time for us to get new medical countermeasures over the finish line.”
A nationwide public health emergency was declared for COVID-19 on Jan. 31, 2020, by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Since then, cases have bloomed to more than 78,000 globally and nearly 2,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization — figures that have made it the most damaging coronavirus thus far.