With the outbreak of COVID-19, the WuXi AppTec community is committed to helping the world pivot from fear to determination and effective action. On February 25, in an effort to raise awareness of existing research and to further collaboration, WuXi AppTec convened leading scientific and academic experts for an online forum, titled “LET SCIENCE LEAD: A Special Online Forum on COVID-19.”
This event – a recording of which can be viewed here – consisted of four panels, featured 18 leaders from industry and academia, and reached an audience of more than 5,000 viewers across the globe who learned more about what is currently known about COVID-19, what remains to be discovered, and the depth of scientific collaboration underway to develop a treatment and vaccine. A complete list of panels and speakers is available here.
WuXi AppTec has long worked to convene members of our industry, facilitating conversations and enabling innovations toward better solutions. Whether through large gatherings like this online event and our annual WuXi Global Forum, or in our day-to-day engagement with customers and partners, WuXi AppTec’s enabling platform and commitment to serve as a trusted contributor to the global healthcare industry will not falter.
Panel 1: Towards Faster and More Accurate Diagnosis
After a moment of silence for the lives lost to COVID-19, panelists shared their individual expertise on diagnostics associated with the virus. Panelists noted that early symptom recognition and early testing are key to enabling virus detection. They highlighted the potential of genome sequencing for evaluating how the virus is spreading and developing tests to diagnose it more effectively. The panelists also discussed the importance of combining expertise and technologies across the industry to develop tests that will allow scientists to better understand the virus.
Panel 2: Expediting Therapeutic Intervention
Panelists addressed the merits and potential limits of repurposing existing small molecule drugs to fight COVID-19, as well as the potential use of antibodies for treatment, noting that it is unlikely that any existing drug would work well against the new virus. The panelists then discussed how to streamline the research process and produce at scale a vaccine that works in a clinic. They noted that it would be impossible for individual governments or companies to address this outbreak and the future spread of other infectious diseases individually, and encouraged collaborative action.
Panel 3: Can We Move Quickly on Vaccines?
The discussion on this panel turned to the long-term criticality of vaccines, and how prior work on SARS and MERS provides a useful foundation of data to work from to find a vaccine for COVID-19. They noted that current understanding of virus and vaccine technology, as well as global cooperation efforts, have vastly improved They also discussed the merits of using animal models and the risk of antibody-dependent enhancement. Certain populations, such as pregnant women, the immunocompromised, and the elderly are those that could benefit from monoclonal antibodies, despite vaccines being the best approach for treatment in the long run. Panelists emphasized that vaccine development takes time and that it will be important to maintain a coalition of funders and collaborators for the vaccine development effort.
Panel 4: How to Improve Readiness for the Next Epidemic?
The final panel compared COVID-19 with SARS, discussed government initiatives, and addressed the development of treatments and vaccines even after the current outbreak is contained and defeated. Panelists commented that ensuring the sustainability of efforts to address the challenges posed by this virus will require the coordination of political and scientific efforts.
As the global community faces new challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak, WuXi AppTec will continue to foster dialogue and collaboration among healthcare professionals and beyond. We will provide updates on our efforts both on this website and on LinkedIn and Twitter.