Three institutions in US and UK secure grants for Covid-19 research

31st March 2020 (Last Updated March 31st, 2020 12:41)

Researchers at three institutions in the US and UK have received grants to advance trials of repurposed drugs and novel antibodies for the prevention of Covid-19.

Three institutions in US and UK secure grants for Covid-19 research
The initial clinical study is expected to start in the near term. Credit: Syaibatul Hamdi from Pixabay.

Researchers at three institutions in the US and UK have received grants to advance trials of repurposed drugs and novel antibodies for the prevention of Covid-19.

Partners in the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator awarded $20m in initial grants to the University of Washington, University of Oxford, and La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard have launched the Therapeutics Accelerator initiative to identify, evaluate, develop, and scale up treatments for the deadly disease.

Two of the newly announced studies will fund an investigation into whether drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are effective as pre and post-exposure preventive therapies for Covid-19.

Despite having demonstrated initial promise, more scientific evidence is required to make decisions on how and where the drugs can be used.

A multi-site clinical trial in Western Washington and the New York City area will be carried out by the University of Washington in partnership with New York University’s School of Medicine.

Up to 2,000 asymptomatic men and women who are close contacts of individuals with confirmed or pending Covid-19 diagnoses will be enrolled to evaluate whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent coronavirus in people already exposed to the infection.

The study will randomly assign participants to take hydroxychloroquine or a placebo over a two week period. Samples will be collected and tested on a daily basis to confirm new Covid-19 infections across both groups.

Novartis division Sandoz has donated the hydroxychloroquine doses required to carry out the study. Enrolment is due to start next month, with results expected later this year.

The Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit will lead a placebo-controlled prophylaxis trial of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19 in at-risk health care workers, frontline staff, and other high-risk groups.

The study will randomise around 40,000 participants in Asia and Europe to receive either chloroquine (East Asian countries), hydroxychloroquine (UK and Europe), or a matched film-coated placebo as daily prophylaxis for three months.

The one-year project, known as COPCOV, intends to identify whether the drugs can prevent Covid-19 and protect the vital health care workforce.

Participant enrolment is due to start in April with initial results planned to be available by the end of this year.

In addition to funding drug trials, the Accelerator will offer $1.73m to the La Jolla Institute for Immunology to set up a Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, known as CoVIC.

The effort will bring together scientists from across the world and allow them to share and assess candidate antibodies in a blinded, multidisciplinary analysis to determine ideal therapeutic combinations.