A Mastercard-sponsored organisation the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator has granted $20m to fund clinical trials during the coronavirus outbreak.

Researchers at three institutions – the University of Washington,  the University of Oxford, and La Jolla Institute for Immunology – received the funding to hold clinical trials and identify immunotherapies for COVID-19.

Mike Froman, vice chairman of Mastercard, said: “Today’s grants are an important next step in the Therapeutic Accelerator’s commitment to identifying and scaling treatments to combat COVID-19.

“In order to provide therapeutic solutions to this global pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, we need to speed up the research and development process. We can do this through a collaborative funding effort by the private sector, philanthropic organisations, and governments. We welcome the participation of additional organisations that can contribute and help bring an end to this crisis.”

First investments 

These grants mark the first investments to come from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The initiative was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard to speed the development of COVID-19 therapies.

Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “These grants to leading institutions in their fields will advance our understanding of how existing drugs and antibodies can contribute to addressing the pandemic we’re facing around the world. The way forward will be informed by sound science and shared data.”

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In addition, newly announced funding from government and philanthropic donors has added to the Accelerator’s initial funding. Last week, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative committed $25m and the UK government committed £40m.

The additional funds will allow the Accelerator to continue making grants for research surrounding COVID-19.

Two of the newly announced trials will fund an investigation of two well-established drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. These drugs have known antiviral properties and were used to treat Malaria in the past.

The Accelerator will also provide $1.73m to the La Jolla Institute for Immunology to establish a Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium. The idea is to bring scientists from around the world together and enable them to identify antibody therapies.