News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Global Pharma’s unprecedented collaboration in the search for safe and effective COVID-19 therapies

Health Industry Hub | May 1, 2020 |
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The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations’ (IFPMA) press conference on 30 April 2020 brought together key speakers across global Pharma including MSD, Takeda, CSL, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sandoz and Merck to discuss unprecedented collaboration in the search for COVID-19 therapies.

R&D biopharmaceutical companies have brought together their best people, resources and expertise to accelerate the development of new treatments for use in the fight against COVID-19. The R&D biopharmaceutical companies are working with urgency to research and test potential COVID-19 treatments, without compromising safety and quality. To ensure that nobody is left behind in facing this pandemic, industry is committed working with governments to make these treatments available and affordable for the patients that need them.

The industry is living up to its public commitments, collaborating widely to ensure that its breadth of expertise in therapeutics (research, clinical development, manufacturing) is shared across the scientific community as part of the global fight against COVID-19. As many as 25 R&D biopharmaceutical companies are conducting clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medicines to treat COVID-19. While this work is underway, R&D biopharmaceutical companies are maintaining production and distribution to keep supplying essential medicines for patients with other life-threatening diseases.

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Becoming a Founding Partner of the recently launched landmark global partnership Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator demonstrates the R&D biopharmaceutical industry’s deep sense of responsibility toward citizens, patients and wider society. Its role in the ACT partnership is important, as the industry is uniquely placed to find and scale up solutions for preventing and treating the COVID-19 virus. In addition, IFPMA member companies have lived up to their commitment to share real-time clinical trial data with governments and othercompanies around the world so as to advance the development of additional therapies.

No stone unturned

As soon as the SARS-CoV-2 genome was shared in January, R&D biopharmaceutical companies screened their libraries of medicines to identify potential treatments and undertake numerous clinical trials to test new and existing therapies.

The R&D biopharmaceutical industry is today engaged, either individually or in collaboration, in testing the safety and effectiveness of dozens of different therapies including anti – malarials, anti-inflammatory anti-virals, auto-immune, anti-inflammatories/inhibitors and plasma treatments. The virus is complex and there is still a great deal that remains unknown; hence, many different options and approaches are needed to treat patients at different stages of infection. Healthcare providers will need a portfolio of treatment choices, not a “single” solution.

Advancing as fast as possible on many different fronts, while resource intensive, holds out the greatest promise of finding safe and effective solutions. A great deal of this effort is being carried out by putting aside normal competition and instead working in collaboration with partners in academia, philanthropy, public and private sector , pooling knowledge and sharing expertise. As a result there is a robust innovative biopharmaceutical ecosystem and the existing incentives to drive innovation has already yielded unprecedented levels of collaboration, cooperation with over 130 COVID-19 therapeutic candidates under investigation.

In addition, the R&D biopharmaceutical industry is providing financial support and in-kind donations to communities and collaborating with national and global health authorities to combat this worldwide public health emergency. To date, IFPMA member companies have
given over $700 million in monetary donations, as well as critical medical supplies worth at least $40m to support patients and governments in addressing this evolving crisis.

Nobody left behind

At the same time, while diverting considerable resources to the fight against COVID-19, the R&D biopharmaceutical industry has worked to secure continuity of supply for all essential medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics for patients with other lifethreatening diseases. Keeping the production and distribution of exiting treatments for patients going, as well as making sure medicines are available to treat the underlying conditions associated with COVID-19 is important.

Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), the body representing the innovative biopharmaceutical industry, explains “Many of the most promising treatments that originate from the laboratories of the R&D biopharmaceutical industry are the product of a thriving and invaluable, innovative biopharmaceutical ecosystem. We recognise the scale of the COVID-19 crisis will require a novel modus operandi, built on partnership in the public interest. We are working on an equal footing and shared basis with other interested bodies across the board to find solutions so that safe and effective treatments can be accessible for all those in need – wherever and whoever they may be.”

Cueni concludes “We will only succeed in reaching this goal if we journey together”.

International Speakers

  • IFPMA, Thomas Cueni, Director General
  • AstraZeneca, Dr. José Baselga, Executive Vice-President
  • CSL Behring, Bill Mezzanotte, Executive Vice President, Research and Development
  • Merck, Dr. Teresa Rodó, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Healthcare Operations and a Member of the Healthcare Executive Committee of Merck
  • MSD, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer
  • Pfizer, Nanette Cocero, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines
  • Sandoz, Richard Saynor, CEO of Sandoz, part of Novartis
  • Takeda, Julie Kim, President, Plasma-Derived Therapies Business Unit


IFPMA represents the research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations across the globe. The research-based pharmaceutical industry’s 2 million employees discover, develop, and deliver medicines and vaccines that improve the life of patients worldwide.

Based in Geneva, IFPMA has official relations with the United Nations and contributes industry expertise to help the global health community find solutions that improve global health.

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