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Wellcome commits another £70m to global Covid-19 R&D


Funding will go on genomic tracking, vaccine diversification and treatments

The Wellcome Trust has committed another £70 million to Covid-19 research, the bulk of which will go through the ACT Accelerator, an international collaboration framework to speed up the development of Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

The latest commitments follow £60m that Wellcome pledged in 2020 for treatments, research and capacity building in poorer countries, which included about £35m in seed funding for the Accelerator’s drug development arm.

In a 24 March press release, Wellcome said about £50m would go through the Accelerator to fund work on Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, adding that the World Health Organization-backed initiative faces a funding gap of around £16bn.

About £20m of the funding will go on strengthening viral sequencing and tracking in Africa and Asia, efforts which Wellcome said are “critical to rapidly identify and limit the impact of new variants”.

Other funding will support the search for drug targets beyond the ‘spike’ protein of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

“We need vaccines targeting different parts of the virus; evidence of where combination vaccines may offer broader protection; vaccines suitable for different global settings,” said Charlie Weller, Wellcome’s head of vaccines.

Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, added: “More funding is vital to develop the range of treatments and vaccines the world needs—and to make sure these, and those we already have, are fairly and equally available in all countries.

“The job for science is a long way from done—either to exit this crisis or ensure the world can keep Covid-19 in check long-term.”

Farrar also criticised “international complacency” saying “global governments remain slow to commit funding” which is “putting progress against Covid-19 and the pandemic at risk.”

He said: “Science remains our only way out of this pandemic.”