Canadian businessman Geoffrey Cumming is shelling out a whopping $171 million over the next two decades in order to create a top-tier pandemic therapeutic research center. The aptly named Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics will operate out of a site in Melbourne and develop an adaptable platform for dealing with pandemic pathogens, whether they be a coronavirus, an influenza strain, or a drug-resistant bacterium. The Victorian government has been encouraged by this altruistic campaign, and it has added AU$75 million to Cumming’s sum.
“An effective pandemic response requires both vaccines and treatments, but innovation in anti-pathogen therapeutics has lagged in comparison to vaccines, with AU$137 billion publicly invested globally in vaccines compared to just AU$7 billion in therapeutics during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the director of the Doherty Institute, Sharon Lewin. Indeed, widespread support for Cumming’s center shows a general awareness that the slow development process for COVID treatment drugs, especially when compared to the accelerated vaccine development process, cost the world millions of lives.
Hoping to distribute effective therapeutics within months of the onset of a given pandemic, the center’s goal is to streamline design and testing to reach a new turnaround standard. With a lofty funding target of AU$1.5 billion over 20 years, the center joins a long list of initiatives meant to improve pandemic preparedness. Notably, those include funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to, respectively, the Pandemic Antiviral Discovery (PAD) initiative and nine Antiviral Drug Discovery Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern.