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COVID-19 therapeutics: Germany launches €300m funding

German government has launched a €300m programme designed to bring clinically tested COVID-19 treatments to the patient’s bedside.

The announcement of German Health Minister Jens Spahn and federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek came one week after the European Commission issued a light version of the $10bn US programme “Operation Warp Speed” to complement the EU Vaccines Strategy with a strategy on COVID-19 therapeutics.

While the US invested more than $2bn since last summer under its ACTIV programme to push pivotal trails, authorise and procure COVID-19-specific antibodies and DARPins, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides announced investments totaling €140m for preclinical and clinical reseach and for the identification, approval and preparation of procurement of at least five promising COVID-19 therapies until the end of the year.

With more than a one year delay compared to the US, the Commission will start in July to identify the most promising preclinical and clinical candidates. Kyriakides said, “vaccinations save lives, but they cannot yet eradicate COVID-19. We need a strong push on treatments to limit the need for hospitalization, speed up recovery times and reduce mortality.”

Germany’s programm, which came after 14 months of intense industry lobbying for translation of existing clinical COVID-19 drug candidates to the patients’ bedside, is more ambitious. The €300m programme provides funding for clinical proof-of-concept and registration studies in phases IIb and III, and for repurposed drugs only in phase III. In addition, biotech companies can receive financial support in preparing for production in Germany.

Horst Domdey, head of the BIO-M cluster organisation, who had already contributed to the initiation of a €50m funding programme in Bavaria and a similar federal programme of the same amount for the clinical development of promising COVID-19 therapeutics, expressly welcomed the funding programme.

German Health Minister Spahn just in January had purchased up to 200,000 doses of the therapeutic antibody mix REGN-CoV from Regeneron, which got an FDA emergency use authorisation (EUA) at the end of November 2020 and an application recommendation of the EMA in February 2021. According to published data, the dual antibody mix prevented severe cases and deaths with an efficacy of at least 70% in the outpatient setting. In 2021, 489,084 people across the EU died as a result of infection with the COVID-19 pathogen SARS-CoV-2, according to Statista. According to the Robert Koch Institute, around 33,000 people died in Germany in the same period. REGN-CoV was developed with money from the ACTIV programme.