Press release

Wellcome pledges further $100 million to accelerate Covid-19 research

Wellcome is pledging up to $100 million (£70m/€80m) to accelerate Covid-19 research and development to make sure science keeps pace with the virus.

The rise and spread of SARS-CoV-2 mutations mean new generation vaccines and treatments are needed, along with better global systems to identify and track changes in the virus.

Up to $70m of Wellcome’s latest funding package will help advance treatments and vaccines, continuing our work as part of the ACT-Accelerator global partnership. And up to $30m will fund SARS-CoV-2 tracking research in low- and middle-income countries.

It is part of our continuing support for the science that will end this pandemic and protect lives long-term against Covid-19 and other global epidemic threats.

Science has made staggering progress. The first vaccines, treatments and clinical advances are saving lives, and allowing some countries to, tentatively, start lifting lockdown restrictions. But that progress is at considerable risk of reversing. More funding is vital to develop the range of treatments and vaccines the world needs, and to make sure these, and those we already have, are fairly and equally available in all countries.

The job for science is a long way from done, either to exit this crisis or ensure the world can keep Covid-19 in check long-term.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome

International funding is not keeping pace with global research needs. The ACT-Accelerator(opens in a new tab) faces a $22.1 billion global funding gap.

Genomic surveillance

Strengthening global genomic sequencing and tracking is critical to rapidly identifying and limiting the impact of new variants. Our funding will include building on existing Wellcome partnerships with researchers in Africa and Asia, and supporting ongoing in-country and WHO coordinated global virus sequencing efforts.

Virus mutations threaten the effectiveness of the Covid-19 tools we have worked so hard to develop. We need to build capacity for genomic sequencing globally to identify new variants and map their spread to inform public health measures and further research.

Dr Divya Shah, Wellcome’s Epidemics Research Lead

New vaccines

The first Covid-19 vaccines all have the same target, the spike protein of the virus. Our funding will support CEPI’s work to develop a greater range of vaccines(opens in a new tab) for the world.

We cannot stop at the first vaccines, or at adapting these to deal with the mutations so far identified. We need vaccines targeting different parts of the virus; evidence of where combination vaccines may offer broader protection; vaccines suitable for different global settings. And we must be able to produce vaccines in vast numbers rapidly to meet the global need fairly and fast.

Dr Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines at Wellcome

Treatments

We still need treatments that work across all stages of the disease, from mild to severe. Our funding will support the work of the ACT-Accelerator Therapeutics Pillar(opens in a new tab), which Wellcome co-leads. Our funding for treatments includes up to $10m previously announced(opens in a new tab) for medical oxygen.

From preventing infections to stopping mild illness worsening, we cannot afford to live without more treatments for Covid-19. Treatments and vaccines are both needed globally to stop Covid taking lives. Greater focus on new antiviral medicines is a priority for the months ahead.

Alongside accelerating research for new treatments, we must also increase access to existing treatments and medical oxygen, to ensure patients everywhere benefit from clinical progress to date.

Dr Nick Cammack, Covid-19 Therapeutics Lead at Wellcome

With building understanding and confidence in advances against Covid in different communities around the world also critical, Wellcome will provide additional support for social science research.

This $100m package follows $80m (£60m/€70m) Wellcome pledged in 2020 for treatments, research and capacity building in low- and middle-income countries. This $80m included up to $50m in seed funding for the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.

Science remains our only way out of this pandemic. Despite an intense, non-stop year, scientists continue to work at breath-taking speed to develop the tools we need to get ahead of this virus. But for this work to continue and for these tools to reach those most in need, more funding is essential. Global governments remain slow to commit funding to the global effort. International complacency is putting progress against Covid-19 and the pandemic at risk.

 

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome

About Wellcome 

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.

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