Research Roundup: ACT Accelerator funding pledges, low-cost tests for LMICs, and early antibody cocktail trial results
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At a high-level event last week, global leaders pledged about US$1 billion to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration launched in April to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tools. Despite the recent financial commitments from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Sweden, the ACT Accelerator is still facing a large funding gap of about $35 billion overall, with an urgent gap of $1.3 billion for the COVAX advance market commitment mechanism, which focuses on ensuring access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. During the same event, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new joint agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies to scale up manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and other products and ensure broad distribution, a commitment that could help reduce the ACT Accelerator financial needs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a plan to distribute 120 million rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests to low- and middle-income countries at $5 per test. The program, which is supported by several WHO partner organizations and requires an initial $600 million in funding, will utilize antigen-based rapid diagnostics provided by SD Biosensor and Abbott, for which WHO recently issued emergency use listings. Several leaders of organizations involved in the plan have emphasized the need to close the testing gap in low- and middle-income countries to help health care workers understand and contain the virus’ circulation. Leaders have said the program will begin as early as next month in 20 African countries.
Early results published by Regeneron last week indicate that the company’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail treatment lowered virus levels and relieved symptoms more quickly than a placebo did in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The data comes from the first 275 patients in Regeneron’s adaptive phase 1/2/3 study in which participants received either a high treatment dose, low treatment dose, or placebo. The treatment—a combination of two antibodies that target different areas of the receptor-binding domain on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—appeared to be more effective among participants who tested negative for antibodies pre-study, indicating they had not yet produced their own effective immune response. Regeneron has enrolled a second group of patients to continue testing and will also expand its study to examine efficacy in hospitalized patients and as a preventive treatment for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients.