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Biotechs request money for COVID therapeutics

German biotech companies and their industry association BIO Deutschland have called for appropriate investments into clinical  COVID-19 therapies.

The initiative of BIO Deutschland could become a blueprint for Europe. German COVID-19 therapy developers have recommended to set up a fund to support clinical development of specific COVID-19 treatments. According to the developers almost all money is currently being invested into COVID-19 vaccines. However, it is important also to have effective treatments in the pipeline to prevent severe COVID-19 disease in people who are already infected and as a plan B if vaccines turn out not to be as effective as everyone hopes.

“We need vaccines to contain the pandemic,” stressed Aicuris founder Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff, co-head of the Health Policy Working Group at BIO Deutschland. “But it will still take time before effective vaccines are available to the general population, and even then it will take time until sufficient protection is established”. Even if vaccines are approved, patients are likely to continue to suffer from severe COVID-19 infections. “We therefore also urgently need effective treatment options to alleviate severe COVID-19 cases in particular. For HIV there is still no vaccine available. “Here, effective drugs have taken away the terror of the virus, said Rübsamen-Schaeff, formerly at the forefront of HIV research.

According to Niels Riedemann, CEO of Nasdaq-listed Inflarx NV and  co-chairman of the Health Policy Working Group, advanced drug candidates could provide proof of efficacy within nine to twelve months.

In contrast to Germany and Europe, the USA has already launched an initiative in August to promote the financing of clinical trials of antibody therapies for the treatment and protection of risk groups. Under the ACTIVE initiative, the US agency BARDA enables developers of monoclonal antibody therapies  to go through the expensive late stages of clinical development that are required for market approval.

BIO Deutschland, however, advocates a broader approach than the US-American one. Specifically, the industry association proposes the establishment of a fund that would enable particularly financially weak companies to develop promising antibdy as well as drug candidates to market approval. These companies are often unable to raise the roughly estimated €20m for phase II studies and €60m for phase III testing of monotherapies on their own. The association does not expect any gifts: in the event of success, the companies are expected to repay the government grant from their profits at moderate interest rates. In case of failure, the grant is to be written off.

The proposal might be a blueprint for the German EU presidency. At EU scale, investments into vaccines vs non-repurposed COVID-19 treatments stand at several billion euros compared to currently  tens of thousands of euros for therapy development.The biotech industry advocates a more balanced approach to public funding.