MEDICAL research charity, LifeArc is providing £10m for clinical trials to find effective therapies for COVID-19. All 15 projects – involving nearly 30 different organisations – were selected for their ability to rapidly start trials in patients and the likelihood of success.
The trials involve medicines that are approved for use in other indications or those in late-stage development with known mechanism of action. This re-purposing approach, where the drug is known to have a target that could be relevant to COVID-19 patients, has a high chance of identifying a treatment in a shorter time than it would take to develop either vaccines or new medicines
Dr Catriona Crombie, Associate Director Technology Transfer, LifeArc, said:
“The quality and quantity of submissions in such a short time frame demonstrated the need for the rapid availability of funding. We are delighted that, as an independently funded charity, LifeArc could respond rapidly and use our resources to identify and support those research projects that had the highest potential to be made available to patients as soon as possible.”
In response to our call to scientists and researchers to submit promising approaches to re-purpose medicines to address COVID-19, LifeArc received more than 130 submissions from organisations across the globe. The charity drew up a short-list of applications using criteria that included the scientific rationale of the approach and ability to start trials within 6-12 months.
An independent, expert Scientific Review Panel assessed the shortlisted applicants and those with the highest chance of delivering improvement to COVID-19 patients were selected for funding.
Organisations involved in the studies come from around the globe, including the UK, China, North America and Japan. The principal investigators are primarily universities, research centres or hospitals.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the Scientific Review Panel and Professor of Immunopharmacology, University of Southampton, said:
“Finding new treatments for COVID-19 is a hugely important task and this is an important initiative to happen at this crucial time. Responses to this call include so many imaginative and exciting proposals. The panel members did a wonderful job evaluating the applications and I am most grateful to them for the time and effort each of them put into the assessments.”
The submissions covered a range of approaches from new antivirals, immune modulators and anti-thrombotics to treat patients at different stages of infection including prophylaxis, right through to those requiring ventilation.
A number of academic and medical researchers will be collaborating with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies on the trials. Additional charity and state funders are also providing support.
The LifeArc funding contributes to the national and international response from across the life sciences sector.
Of the 15 proposals selected by the panel, seven have contracts finalised and the details are provided below. The remaining eight will be subject to a further announcement.
Please go to www.lifearc.org/covid to find out more about the funded projects.