Gates Foundation launches initiatives for coronavirus treatment, home testing kits

MANILA, Philippines – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working on several fronts to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

On Tuesday, March 10, the foundation announced the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which aims to look for antiviral treatment for those already infected with the coronavirus through a $125 million fund. Of the amount, $50 million comes from the foundation, $50 million from Wellcome, and $25 million from Mastercard’s Impact Fund. 

The fund seeks to “identify potential treatments...accelerate their development, and prepare for the manufacture of millions of doses for use worldwide,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the foundation. (READ: FDA approves coronavirus test kits developed by U.P. scientists

“Right now, we can only treat the symptoms since there simply aren’t antiviral medications that can treat a range of conditions in the same way that antibiotics do for bacterial infections. This is where we believe we can help by partnering with private and philanthropic enterprises to lower the financial risk and technical barriers for biotech and pharmaceutical companies developing antivirals for COVID-19,” he said.

The foundation estimates that it will take “around one year for products that have current regulatory approval or candidates with existing clinical data” to bring effective treatments to patient – longer for compounds with “limited existing clinical data.” Their full press release can be found here

For the short term, the foundation is beginning to roll out a COVID-19 home testing program in Seattle, the hardest-hit city so far by the virus in the US, the Seattle Times reported. The program looks to deliver nose swabbing kits to the homes of those who are potentially infected, limiting their need to go outside, to go to a hospital, and possibly infect others. The swabs will be picked up by the service, with the test results coming in 1 to 2 days. 

Those who suspect that they may be infected will need to fill out an online form to test for symptoms. If they qualify, the testing kit is then sent to their house. If positive, they’ll fill out another form indicating their movements, who they might have been in contact with, and who might need to be quarantined as well. 

Earlier in February, the foundation also vowed $100 million in the global fight against COVID-19. – Rappler.com