As scientists race to develop a vaccine and cure for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a remarkable collaboration has emerged among pharmaceutical and bioscience firms that in other times compete fiercely with each other.
Promoted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation weeks before the virus was declared a pandemic, the initial 15 companies — Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Gilead among them — began sharing proprietary information about compounds that showed some promise. Now calling itself COVID R&D, the group has added additional members and prompted other bioscience and research groups into similar collaborative arrangements.
The Wall Street Journal detailed the story (subscription required) of the cooperation among pharmaceutical competitors in a commentary by Safi Bahcall.
It isn’t the first time pharmaceutical firms have come together, but the speed with which the collaboration developed, as well as the financial investment and the potential revenue sacrifice of marketing a successful vaccine or cure is what makes the arrangement so unusual.
It is, however, just one of the ways the pandemic is changing the industry.
In an article on the Association of Clinical Research Professionals’ blog, Noelle Gaskill, senior vice president in research operations at SignalPath, points to the speed at which COVID-19 related clinical trials were opened. The article says “she believes industry has an opportunity to make lasting changes inspired by seeing what worked so well to launch COVID-19 trials under pressure-filled conditions.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the clinical trial industry can move quickly when so inspired, Gaskill notes. ‘Now it’s time to use those lessons we learned’ to speed trial start-up in the future.”
Her comments echoed what speakers at a session of the association’s Virtual 2020 conference said. “It’s ironic, but this negative disruption is propelling vision and innovation,” said Leanne Madre, director of strategy with the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative.
While it’s far too soon to predict what lasting changes will be made, Karen Lindsley, with the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, told attendees the future of clinical trials will be different. The clinical trials of last year are not the clinical trials of next year.”