Innovative Medicines Canada’s members are working around the clock to find new treatments and vaccines to fight COVID-19.
Find out more about what the industry is doing below.
Research into Vaccines and Treatments
Updated April 6, 2020
Diagnostic testing and equipment are essential in the fight against COVID-19.
Following are examples of how our member companies are engaged in combatting COVID-19 through testing and diagnostic equipment:
- AstraZeneca is accelerating the development of its diagnostic testing capabilities to scale-up screening and is also working in partnership with governments on existing screening programs to supplement testing.
- Roche is currently working with Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial public labs to align on a strategy for available COVID-19 testing solutions, including those provided by Roche, according to the needs of various jurisdictions. The company is diligently providing its solutions for COVID-19 testing to laboratories and is taking the necessary measures to help reduce the level of pandemic impact.
Research into Vaccines and Treatments
Meeting the challenge of creating a new vaccine and developing effective treatments for COVID-19 will take close collaboration across the private sector, public health authorities, industry partners, and government agencies, along with the coordinated work of thousands of scientists, physicians, researchers and volunteers.
The following are some examples of how our member companies are engaged in combatting COVID-19 through the research and development of medicines and vaccines:
- AbbVie has announced plans to evaluate its HIV medicine as COVID-19 treatment and has entered into partnerships with health authorities and institutions in various countries to investigate the efficacy and antiviral activity of the medication. Abbvie has also allied with industry partners and the Innovative Medicines Initiative to research and identify targeted medicines against COVID-19.
- Amgen and Adaptive Biotechnologies announced a collaboration aimed at helping address the COVID-19 pandemic. The companies will combine expertise to discover and develop fully human neutralizing antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 to potentially prevent or treat COVID-19. The mutually exclusive collaboration brings together Adaptive’s proprietary immune medicine platform for the identification of virus-neutralizing antibodies with Amgen’s expertise in immunology and novel antibody therapy development. Given the rapidly rising incidence of COVID-19 around the world, the companies will begin work. Neutralizing antibodies defend healthy cells by interfering with the biological function of an invading virus. These antibodies may be used therapeutically to treat someone currently fighting the disease and can be given to people who have heightened risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, such as healthcare workers.
- AstraZeneca is engaging with international health authorities and governments and has provided science and technology expertise to the World Health Organization and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. AstraZeneca’s Research and Development (R&D) teams have also been working expeditiously to identify monoclonal antibodies to progress towards clinical trial evaluation as a treatment to prevent COVID-19. More than 50 virology, immunology, respiratory, and protein engineering experts across research, clinical, regulatory, and manufacturing are placing the highest priority on developing a treatment to minimize the global impact of the disease.
- Boehringer Ingelheim is supporting the development of therapies against COVID-19. The company is collaborating with the German Center for Infectious Research and take part in a fast-track call from the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative to develop therapies and diagnostic tools for COVID-19. Their global research team is screening their entire molecule library with more than one million compounds to identify novel small molecules with activity against the virus. The same applies for already existing small molecule compounds from Boehringer Ingelheim’s former antiviral research.
Boehringer Ingelheim is also part of a group of life sciences companies collaborating to accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for COVID-19 in response to the pandemic. This work is being done alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is entering into the new collaborative research effort, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The aim of the Accelerator is to bring pharmaceutical companies and expert academic institutions into coordinated research programs, with the aim of bringing the most promising molecules forward that could be used to treat cases of COVID-19. GSK will contribute by making available compounds from its libraries for screening for activity against COVID-19. In addition, GSK is evaluating its marketed pharmaceutical products and medicines in development to determine if any could be used beyond their current indications in response to the pandemic. The company also expanded their vaccine development collaborations and is now working with five partner companies and research groups across the world, including in the USA and China.
- Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced the selection of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate from constructs it has been working on, through its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, since January 2020. J&J expects to initiate human clinical studies of its lead vaccine candidate at the latest by September 2020 and anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021, a substantially accelerated timeframe in comparison to the typical vaccine development process. Through a landmark new partnership, BARDA, which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Johnson & Johnson, through its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, together have committed more than $1-billion of investment to co-fund vaccine research, development, and clinical testing. J&J will use its validated vaccine platform and is allocating resources to focus on these efforts. As part of its commitment, J&J is also expanding the Company’s global manufacturing capacity, including through the establishment of new U.S. vaccine manufacturing capabilities and scaling up capacity in other countries. In addition to Janssen’s efforts to develop a vaccine candidate, it is working closely with global partners to screen its library of antiviral molecules to accelerate the discovery of potential COVID-19 treatments and provide relief for people around the world.
- Lilly entered into an agreement with AbCellera to co-develop antibody products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. The collaboration will leverage AbCellera’s rapid pandemic response platform, developed under the DARPA Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) Program, along with Lilly’s global capabilities for rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies.
- Medicago announced the production of a viable vaccine candidate for COVID-19 which is undergoing preclinical testing for safety and efficacy. Funding received from the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Response Fund for coronavirus research and the Government of Quebec, as announced on March 23, will allow Medicago to rapidly move forward on clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of the vaccine candidate and then quickly shift to scaling up production for pandemic response.
- Merck, and many other pharmaceutical companies, are actively engaged in scientific efforts to develop safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines against COVID-19. As a company, it has enormous experience in inventing antivirals and vaccines. Merck has shown with its Ebola virus vaccine that it knows what it takes to get a vaccine across the finish line in a global public health emergency like the one we are facing now. But, as we know all too well, the path to a new medicine or vaccine is not fast, and not easy. As was the case with Ebola virus, HIV and more, Merck is optimistic that industry’s efforts will create new tools to combat this coronavirus. This pandemic underscores the need for the company and industry to continue to invest in research for the greatest health threats.
Merck is also pleased to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its industry peers during this challenging period. As part of Merck’s commitment of expertise and assets, the company will be actively participating in the Therapeutics, Vaccines Manufacturing, and Clinical & Regulatory workstreams.
- Novartis is joining collaborative R&D efforts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard-supported COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and a partnership with the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Novartis has also announced plans to initiate a Phase III clinical trial in collaboration with Incyte to evaluate the use of Jakavi for treatment of a type of severe immune overreaction called cytokine storm that can lead to life-threatening respiratory complications in patients with COVID-19. The proposed trial will assess Jakavi in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia as a result of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Given the rapid spread of the pandemic, and as plans for the study are finalized, Novartis also has set up an international compassionate use program for eligible patients, subject to local regulations, while ensuring there is enough Jakavi to go around for approved indications.
- Pfizer and BioNTech to co-develop potential Covid-19 vaccine. The collaboration aims to accelerate development of BioNTech’s potential first-in-class COVID-19 mRNA vaccine program, BNT162, which is expected to enter clinical testing by the end of April 2020. The rapid advancement of this collaboration builds on the research and development collaboration into which Pfizer and BioNTech entered in 2018 to develop mRNA-based vaccines for prevention of influenza.
- Roche Canada has been selected as a participant in a Phase III clinical trial studying the safety and efficacy of one of Roche’s portfolio medicines in hospitalized adult patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. In addition, Roche is collecting and compiling data from other, independently-led clinical trials that are taking place around the world.
- Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines global business unit of Sanofi, is leveraging previous development work for a SARS vaccine as part of its goal to unlock a fast path forward for developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Sanofi is collaborating with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, expanding the company’s longstanding partnership with BARDA. That partnership includes an agreement signed last year to establish state of the art facilities in the United States for the sustainable production of an adjuvanted recombinant vaccine, the technology platform that will be used for the COVID-19 program. Additionally, Sanofi is researching whether some on-market products may be a potential treatment option and are also sharing their expertise in an advisory capacity to various global governments and health agencies, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
- Takeda is developing an investigational Hyperimmune globulin (H-IG). H-IG has been found to be effective in the treatment of severe acute respiratory infections of viral etiology and may present a potential treatment option for high-risk COVID-19 patients, as well as the prevention of infection in healthcare workers at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. In addition, Takeda is exploring whether select marketed therapies and molecules in its drug library could be viable candidates for the effective treatment of COVID-19. These efforts are at an early stage but being given a high priority within the company.
- Multiple members A consortium of life sciences companies announced an important collaboration to accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for COVID-19 in response to the pandemic alongside Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The industry brings a range of assets, resources, and expertise needed to identify effective and scalable solutions to the pandemic that is affecting billions worldwide. The impact on health systems, economies, and livelihoods are significant, and effective response requires an unprecedented collaboration across government, academia, private sector, and philanthropy. As a first step, 15 companies have agreed to share their proprietary libraries of molecular compounds that already have some degree of safety and activity data–with the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator launched by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard two weeks ago to quickly screen them for potential against COVID-19. Successful hits would move rapidly into in vivo trials in as little as two months.
Financial and in-kind contributions are used to support organizations and frontline healthcare workers largely impacted by the pandemic. Donations include a variety of crucial supplies including surgical equipment, antibiotics, disinfection equipment, protective clothing, masks, gloves and more.
The following are but a few examples of how our member companies are engaged in combatting COVID-19 through global and local financial and in-kind donations:
- Innovative Medicines Canada members donate 100,000 masks to help protect front-line healthcare workers battling COVID-19.
- Amgen and the Amgen Foundation announced on March 23 an initial commitment of up to $12.5-million to support U.S. and global relief efforts to address critical needs in communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will be used to support emergency response efforts in Amgen’s U.S. and international communities, patient-focused organizations that are mounting their own response efforts, and international relief efforts by Direct Relief and International Medical Corps. The Amgen Foundation will also match donations made by Amgen staff around the globe who wish to contribute their own funds to the relief efforts.
- AstraZeneca is donating nine million face masks to support healthcare workers around the world as they respond to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) global pandemic. AstraZeneca has partnered with the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform, created with the support of the World Health Organization, to identify countries in greatest need. treatment to prevent COVID-19.
- Bayer is donating medicines and additional financial aid worth a total of approximately 1.5-million (EUR) to support the population affected by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China. The donations will be made to the Chinese Red Cross, which is working together with the health authorities to coordinate the deployment of aid measures for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and containment of COVID-19.
Bayer has donated three million tablets of the malaria drug Resochin to the U.S. government for potential use to treat COVID-19. Resochin, made of chloroquine phosphate and an approved treatment for malaria, is being evaluated in China for its potential use against COVID-19, the disease caused by the fast-spreading coronavirus.
- Bristol Myers Squibb is committed to supporting communities deeply affected by the virus. The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, an independent charitable organization, is committed to working with global relief partners and, to date, has provided more than $5-million in financial support and needed products to response and relief capabilities around the world with more support being provided every day.
- EMD Serono Canada As part of the global effort to investigate potential therapeutics for COVID-19, EMD Serono, Canada through its parent company, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has donated a supply of interferon beta-1a (Rebif®) to the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) following a request for use in a clinical trial. The trial is sponsored by INSERM and its launch has been announced by the French Health authorities on March 11. To date, Merck KGaA’s interferon beta-1a (REBIF) is not approved by any regulatory authority for the treatment of COVID-19 or for use as an antiviral agent.
- On March 25, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that the company is donating $10-million to The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, created by the UN Foundation and WHO, to support WHO and partners to prevent, detect, and manage the pandemic, particularly where the needs are the greatest. Among its objectives, the fund will enable distribution of essential supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health workers. GSK is also donating surplus reagents to support diagnostic testing to several countries and is preparing to do the same for surplus PPE.
- On March 27, the Johnson & Johnson family of companies and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation announced a commitment of $50-million USD to support frontline health workers in the global fight against COVID-19.
- As an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by brain diseases, with a particular focus on supporting the mental health of individuals across the globe, Lundbeck is working to support communities that may be most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The company also is taking action to bolster Canada’s health care system’s ability to respond to the pandemic through their role in supporting the IMC COVID-19 Fund. In addition, the Lundbeck US Charitable Fund made a significant donation to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund, which focuses on non-profit organizations working directly to support health care workers and respond to the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations. Lundbeck’s La Jolla Research Center donated a large portion of its inventory of disposable gloves to California healthcare workers in local area hospitals. Across the globe, the company’s local affiliates are supporting relief organizations; early in the pandemic, Lundbeck China donated 1-million Chinese Yuen to the Red Cross Foundation to support the front line workers in the city of Wuhan. And the Lundbeck Foundation, which owns 70 per cent of Lundbeck, has earmarked DKK 30-million (CAD 6.2-million) for research projects targeting the current coronavirus pandemic.
- Novartis announced a broad range of initiatives to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic including the creation of a $20-million (USD) global fund to support impacted communities. The Novartis COVID-19 Response Fund will provide grants of up to $1-million (USD) to support communities around the world most impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Novartis announced its commitment to donate up to 130 million doses of generic hydroxychloroquine to support the global COVID-19 pandemic response. Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, are currently under evaluation in clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19. Novartis is supporting ongoing clinical trial efforts and will evaluate needs for additional clinical trials. The company is also exploring further scaling of capacity to increase supply and is committed to working with manufacturers around the world to meet global demand. Novartis will work with stakeholders including the World Health Organization to determine the best distribution of the medicine to ensure broad access to patients most in need of this medicine globally.
- Servier is actively contributing to the fight against the pandemic, through several initiatives such as providing personal protection equipment to hospitals in affected countries, as well as making donations to foundations and NGOs (e.g.: Chinese Red Cross and AP-HP Foundation). In France, the location of Servier’s Global headquarters, the company also brings its expertise to the multi-stakeholders partnership Health Innovation Coalition – Health Crisis that aims to develop innovative solutions to relieve congestion in the healthcare system and ensure patients with chronic diseases continue to be treated. In addition, many healthcare professionals employed by Servier have volunteered and have been made available to French health authorities to join medical staff on the front line against the virus.
Download the COVID-19 infographic:
For more information, please visit:
- World Health Organization
- Government of Canada’s Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update
- International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA)