Wellcome seeks $8bn from business to fight coronavirus

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The Wellcome Trust is calling on businesses to donate $8bn for the scientific fight against coronavirus, saying it is the “world’s best exit strategy” from the lockdowns that have shaken global economies.  The global medical research foundation on Tuesday launched “Covid-zero”, a campaign to convince large corporations that it is in their best interest to fund the hunt for a vaccine, treatments and testing for coronavirus. The Trust is working with the World Economic Forum, industry networks and philanthropic partners to persuade chief executives of large multinationals to invest by the end of April. On the WEF’s weekly Covid-19 call, which has attracted 500 business leaders, the Wellcome Trust will appeal to attendees to give.  Payments company Mastercard and the singer Madonna are among those to have already invested in the Covid-19 therapeutics accelerator, launched with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome, said chief executives needed to fund solutions to the problem, rather than just dealing with the fallout.

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“Businesses and governments are rightly concerned with tackling immediate concerns — how to support staff, keep trading and bolster economies,” he said. “But we also need a way out of this pandemic as fast as possible.” The Trust is concerned that governments, companies and even other philanthropic organisations are focusing funding on efforts to cope with the spread of the disease and the shuttered economy, while neglecting the need to find a long-term scientific solution.  The global preparedness monitoring board, an independent organisation convened by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, identified a $8bn shortfall in funding for a pandemic, in a report published before the Covid-19 outbreak.  The $8bn will fund organisations responding to the crisis, including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an alliance formed in 2017 at the World Economic Forum that has been distributing funding to biotech companies developing vaccines.

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It will also fund the Covid-19 therapeutics accelerator; the Foundation of New Innovative Diagnostics, a non-profit focused on diagnostic testing; and a stockpile including personal protective equipment, which has been in severe shortage. Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI, said the spread of Covid-19 was a “global humanitarian and economic crisis”.  “While a range of social distancing measures have been implemented in countries and regions across the world, the development of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics is the most effective way to permanently halt the global spread of the disease,” he said.

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