US President Donald Trump recently met with executives from a number of pharmaceutical companies to discuss progress on their efforts to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, as well as work on treatments for the novel coronavirus. "They're really working hard and they're working smart. We had a great meeting with a lot of great companies," Trump said.
Speaking after the meeting, which included executives from GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead Sciences, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Trump suggested that therapies for COVID-19 are likely to be available before a vaccine. "They're going to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon, and they're going to have something that makes you better, and that's actually going to take place even sooner," Trump remarked.
At the meeting, Trump pushed the pharmaceutical executives to speed work on a vaccine, adding "I don't know what the time will be. I've heard very quick numbers, that of months. And I've heard pretty much a year would be an outside number." However, Antony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, clarified to the president that a deployable vaccine "is going to be, at the earliest, a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go."
John Shiver, senior vice president of global vaccine R&D at Sanofi, who attended the White House meeting, also cautioned over the timeline for developing a vaccine. "We think there are good tools and approaches at hand that will find success, but we should not be too overconfident that this can happen quickly," Shiver said, although he agreed that a therapeutic could be developed in "months or a very short amount of time, a year or so."
Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten also attended the meeting, with the company recently disclosing that it has identified some antiviral compounds that have the potential to inhibit coronaviruses. The drugmaker indicated that it is engaging with a third party to screen the agents, which if positive, could lead to testing by the end of the year.
According to Shiver, he also heard from fellow participants at the meeting that "a lot of progress has been made early on," adding "the more approaches being tried will increase our chances of success." Meanwhile, Inovio CEO Joseph Kim indicated that Trump told the executives to contact him directly if they encountered holdups within the federal government.
For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Biopharma goes to Washington.
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