Thomas B. Cueni
Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA)
The pharmaceutical industry is collaborating on an unprecedented scale and stepping up to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Thomas Cueni, Director General of the IFPMA, explains how.
“I think industry has really stepped up. They are an integral part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, they are very engaged in the vaccine development,” said Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust, in a Chatham House Weekly COVID- 19 Pandemic Briefing. He called to “use the best of what only industry can bring in terms of the know how to develop new products.”
This was the perfect set up for me, at the following briefing1, where I joined Emma Ross, Senior Consulting Fellow of the Global Health Programme of Chatham House, to answer questions on how the pharmaceutical industry is collaborating on an unprecedented scale to develop COVID-19 technologies and tools, the challenges and concerns the industry faces and the best approaches to adopt to ensure equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines for all; leaving no one behind.
Not business as usual
From the get-go, there has been a strong sense across the innovative biopharmaceutical industry that the pandemic is not business as usual. We believed then, as we do now, that fair and equitable access and collaboration are vital and play to the innovative strengths of the biopharmaceutical industry – we launched our commitments in March 2020 and we are tracking what we are doing against them.
Looking into the future it is apparent that we need to be better prepared for pandemics. There is a role for the industry to support the world in being better prepared.
Partnering to innovate and to scale up
Innovative biopharmaceutical companies have wasted no time in setting up collaborations across the board. We are working with academia, biotechs as well as together; both to push forward the science as quickly as possible, as well as to scale up manufacturing to meet the demand for treatments and vaccines.
At present, over 20 IFPMA member companies are involved in R&D for therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, and are involved in 73 clinical trials. 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.
Working together towards equal, available, and affordable access
In joining ACT-Accelerator, and in particular working to support the COVAX pillar, IFPMA is fully engaged in helping meet the challenge of manufacturing billions of doses of a vaccine or vaccines that have yet to be tested and found to be safe and effective.
In this area, we are the only player that has the know-how, the experience, and the proven track-record to deliver in the volumes and at the scale needed. However, our members would not have been able to investigate solutions against COVID-19 without the innovation ecosystem that relies on intellectual property, or without the collaborative spirit we have seen. Without them we would be unable to ramp up at-risk production in the way we have done.
Lessons learnt, emergency preparedness
Looking to the future, it is apparent that we need to be better prepared for pandemics. There is a role for the industry to support the world in being better prepared. The private sector needs to be involved early on in discussions to prevent future pandemics and to bolster new initiatives and partnerships in areas that need urgent attention, not least neglected tropical diseases, and antimicrobial resistance.