WuXi AppTec is convening and working together with experts, from our company and around the world, for ongoing analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also partnering with other industry leaders on actions to address it. As we continue to collaborate with the global healthcare community on this urgent issue, we will update this page with links to our emerging insights and initiatives—along with that of our partners’ and with key coverage of scientific collaboration on the issue globally.
UPDATES FROM WUXI APPTEC
COVERAGE & INITIATIVES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
June 10, 2020
The Best Vaccine Means More Collaboration & Less Market Competition
When it comes to medicinal product innovations, learning from each other in real time is one of the most important success factors for identifying the safest and most effective universal solutions. While the logic of the market is as indispensable to our industry as to any other, when we are hyper focused on competition in the search for a cure, we see gaps in efficiency and safety.
Els Torreele, writing at STAT, underscores the point:
Science thrives, and technological progress is made, when knowledge is exchanged and shared freely, generating collective intelligence by building on the successes and failures of others in real time instead of through secretive competition. Regrettably, market logic has come to overtake medicinal product innovation, including the unproven premise that competition is an efficient way to advance science and deliver the best solutions for public health.
If a vaccine could be designed unconstrained by intellectual property or trade secrets, developers would have the freedom to combine the best elements of different vaccine technology platforms and approaches. Such an approach would allow them to generate a truly innovative and diverse portfolio of Covid-19 vaccine candidates that could be advanced in parallel and comparatively, always with the end goal of universal access to an effective vaccine in mind.
Read the full article here.
June 2, 2020
The Centrality of Global Collaboration in Supply-Chain Management
No country can manufacture all its own medication, but every country has to equip itself with the capability to manufacture the medicines most essential to its population. This may be a common-sense idea, but it also represents a shift in thinking globally, which is already being put into action by Brazil, Ethiopia, Korea, and Pakistan.
Anthony Lakavage elaborates at STAT:
Enhanced global cooperation can also help countries secure critical medicines, especially in light of challenges caused by border closures. During past drug shortages and public health emergencies, information sharing by regulatory authorities around the world has expedited the approval of essential vaccines and medicines, prevented the distribution of substandard and falsified medicines, and quickly mobilized resources.
As a stress test on our global medicine supply chain, Covid-19 has revealed gaps and cracks that must be addressed. As the world comes together in a collective effort to combat this pandemic, drug manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders in health care must work together to support and secure the medicine supply chain.
Read the full post here
May 27, 2020
The Intensifying Global Partnerships in Scientific Research
According to a new study reported in Science X, worldwide cooperation on scientific research—and particularly collaboration between the U.S. and China—is proliferating and strengthening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As Caroline Wagner, a co-author of the study and an associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, remarks, “There may be friction between the U.S. and China on the political level, but at the scientific level we see something different—a lot of collaboration.”
The advantages of these relationships, Wagner states, are massive, particularly in the accelerating speed at which quality research is being generated. A key opportunity for development, however, is to ensure that the strength of the U.S.-Chinese scientific alliance doesn’t inadvertently exclude scientists in other countries. Wagner underscores the importance of extending scientific research networks globally: “It is good to have researchers from all over the world working on a crisis like this.”
Read the full report here—and the study itself at the Social Science Research Network.
May 21, 2020
The Challenges of Speed in Pandemic Science
In its customary compact format, Axios published a helpful explanation of why the rapid speed of vaccine and treatment testing in response to COVID-19 is pressing the limits of how fast scientific research can be viably conducted. “The full-throttle pace of pandemic science is likely here to stay and could carry over to other fields,” Alison Snyder reports. “That means getting comfortable with the limits and drawbacks of such speed to inform the response to this crisis—and prepare for the next one.”
Key speed drivers in developing new information on COVID-19 include genetic sequencing, AI tools, new collaborations, and preprint servers for publishing research before it’s gone through the rigors of standard peer-review processes. The latter factor, in particular, has been accompanied by concerns among some about the quality of the resultant information, though also by the view among others that its benefits remain worth the uncertainties when they’re managed with appropriate scientific discretion.
The key consideration, according to Axios: “Understanding the limits and drawbacks of speedy science matters now more than ever because in crises—of which there will certainly be more—the stakes are even higher.”
Read the whole post here.
May 14, 2020
‘It’s a Truly Global Issue’
Despite fraught and complex geopolitical tensions, health experts from the U.S., China, and around the world are embracing the imperative of global co-operation, both to accelerate treatments and to ensure that poorer nations can have access to them. Kalipso Chalkidou, the director of global health at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., recently underscored this point to The Financial Times:
“The scale of manufacturing is global—you’re going to run out of glass vials, API [active pharmaceutical ingredients], there aren’t enough facilities in a single country [to do this]. … You need to build the plane as you’re flying it.”
Read the full story here.
May 1, 2020
A Competitive Industry Allied
In the context of the global coronavirus pandemic more than ever, the pharmaceutical industry—including many WuXi AppTec partners and our company as well—have begun to work more closely together with a focus on developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Chemical & Engineering News recently profiled some of these collaborative efforts, explaining some of the distinctive capabilities these industry colleagues are bringing together and how they’re leverage them.
As C&EN explains:
Researchers in the alliance are working at a speed and level of openness they compare to a wartime effort. And while they hope their collaboration could shave years off the time it takes to discover an antiviral, they stress that none of their work is likely to reach the clinic in time to address this pandemic.
According to Andrew Plump, the president of R&D at Takeda:
“The reality is that while we’re competitors, we’re also long-standing colleagues in this industry, and many of us are close friends. … We all started to say, ‘Listen, let’s just get on the phone and figure out how we can help each other.’ ”
And as Steve Hitchcock, Takeda’s head of research, concludes:
“We all came together and started to discuss: What are our strengths, and how could we put together a virtual drug discovery pipeline by drawing from the strengths of each one of these individual organizations and recognize what we can do?”
Read the full story here.
April 30, 2020
The Resilience of Global Scientific Collaboration
Axios has a succinct but densely detailed overview of the extent of global collaboration across the scientific community, despite the geopolitical tensions of the moment. Scientists in the U.S. and China, Axios explains, are working together to understand the genesis and spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and most importantly to test COVID-19 treatments and drug candidates, and to develop vaccines.
“The more engagement we have, the more opportunities we have to build relationships and inform our understanding of this emerging infectious disease threat,” Margaret Hamburg, the foreign secretary of the U.S. National Academy of Science and a former FDA commissioner, remarked to Axios. “There is a long tradition of science diplomacy.”
Read the full post here.
April 27, 2020
‘Not Business as Usual’: George Scangos on Vir’s Race Against Covid-19’
San Francisco Business Times recently spoke with George Scangos, the CEO of Vir Biotechnology—who was also, in February, appointed to head up the COVID-19 initiative for BIO, biotech’s largest industry trade group—on his company’s collaborations to address the global coronavirus pandemic. As Business Times assesses the stakes of these efforts: “The quicker Vir proves the value of its library of antibodies, the faster the world might be able to line up new attacks on COVID-19.”
“The strategy is simple,” Scangos says: “Get an effective therapy to patients as quickly as we can. Frankly, that’s the strategy of most companies, to set up those collaborations really quickly because everybody sees the urgency. Every day people are dying. Every day we have to stay in our houses is a day too long.” The key to executing this strategy, he emphasizes, is for the biotech industry to work together as much as possible: “My philosophy in general is, let’s collaborate and do the best science and technology, and let’s not get hung up on ‘ours is better than anyone else’s.”
April 16, 2020
‘Putting … Trust in the Scientific Community’
On April 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a public declaration by a group of experts, working with the WHO to help develop vaccines against the coronavirus, to help prevent transmission, protect public health, and “[put] their trust in the scientific community.”
The group’s declaration states that:
We are scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers who have come together as part of an international collaboration, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), to help speed the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19. While a vaccine for general use takes time to develop, a vaccine may ultimately be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic. In the interim, we applaud the implementation of community intervention measures that reduce spread of the virus and protect people, including vulnerable populations, and pledge to use the time gained by the widespread adoption of such measures to develop a vaccine as rapidly as possible. We will continue efforts to strengthen the unprecedented worldwide collaboration, cooperation and sharing of data already underway. We believe these efforts will help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort, and we will work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all.
This declaration, and list of signatories, is available on the WHO’s website, here.
April 15, 2020
‘This Is a Global Effort’: The View From Germany
In the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, according to Professor Klaus Cichutek, “Everybody has been working on a vaccine for everybody. …That’s a global thing we have to do and there’s nothing like ‘only a vaccine for the U.S’., or Germany.” Cichutek is the president of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Federal Institute of Vaccines and Biomedicines, an agency of the German Federal Ministry of Health. He was quoted by CNBC in an article highlighting a consensus that’s growing rapidly around the world on the imperative to work closely together toward a vaccine:
“It’s not really a competition but a collaboration that we’re looking at. We need to spur a global effort to get several vaccine products that are safe and efficacious as soon as possible,” Cichutek added.
“If you look at phase one trials currently going on, there is one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. and there seem to be two in China, and I hope Germany will be one of the next ones.
The article also cites Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, who stated, “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone.”
Read the full article at CNBC.com.
April 7, 2020
An Ebola-Vaccine Pioneer on the Unprecedented Worldwide Initiative Against COVID-19
PRI spoke with Gary Kobinger, the director of Laval University’s Infectious Disease Research Center at in Quebec, Canada—and a special-pathogens expert who contributed to the development of an Ebola vaccine—about progress against COVID-19. “In relation to a lot of other vaccine efforts, this is going extremely fast,” Kobinger told PRI. “We’ve never seen several vaccines entering clinical trials within three months from the emergence of a pathogen.” While Kobinger emphasized the importance of matching speed with caution in vaccine development, he also noted that the level of global collaboration on a COVID-19 vaccine is unprecedented:
Right now what’s, I think, unique is the level of global collaboration, at least at the [scientific] level. Actually, there’s so many conference calls, there’s not enough hours in a day to follow everything that is happening. But it’s to tell you there is a lot of collaborative approaches now. It’s not about my vaccine, your vaccine. This is why we’re also, on our side, trying to help as many as possible. It’s not about our vaccine. We have one in-house … but it’s it’s not as a big priority because we are not as equipped as others and we prefer to make others benefit from what we can do to fast track their vaccine rather than ours.
The full interview can be heard here.
April 1, 2020
How COVID-19 Is Changing Global Scientific Collaboration
In The New York Times this week, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Matt Apuzzo and international correspondent David Kirkpatrick report on how scientists around the world are ignoring political and geopolitical tensions—working together, across disciplines and across borders, to share research and brain power in unprecedented ways:
While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.
Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.
“I never hear scientists — true scientists, good quality scientists — speak in terms of nationality,” said Dr. Francesco Perrone, who is leading a coronavirus clinical trial in Italy. “My nation, your nation. My language, your language. My geographic location, your geographic location. This is something that is really distant from true top-level scientists.”
The article illustrates the spirit of urgency in working together against the pandemic that we are experiencing with our colleagues and partners around the world—and that governed WuXi AppTec’s recent online forum, “LET SCIENCE LEAD: A Special Online Forum on COVID-19.” Reaching more than 5,000 people globally, the event featured 18 industry and academic leaders.
March 23, 2020
MassBio’s New Emergency SupplyHub Initiative
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), a 35-year-old non-profit organization that represents, serves, and supports the life sciences industry in and around Boston, U.S., has launched the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency SupplyHub. The purpose of the initiative is to coordinate donations from the area’s life sciences and healthcare organizations of lab testing, diagnostics, and safety supplies, as well as medical and scientific expertise, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to MassBio, its program will work closely with state authorities:
We will share this information with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the state’s Department of Public Health, who are coordinating and triaging all requests for supplies.
With all this information centralized, state government will be able to more efficiently match requests with available supplies. This is in no way meant to replace the current structure the state has in place for resource requests from healthcare institutions to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health but is meant to augment it.
Read the organization’s full announcement—including its lists of supplies and expertise needed, and SupplyHub FAQs—here.