Businessman Pledges $171M for Faster R&D

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.

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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.