EU matchmaking event to boost COVID-19 therapeutics development

COVID-19 therapeutics are essential for reducing hospitalisation rates and alleviating lasting symptoms, or long COVID. [Pressmaster / SHUTTERSTOCK]

A two-day pan-European matchmaking event hosted by the European Commission in a bid to mobilise the development and production of therapeutics to help those suffering from COVID-19 began on Monday (12 July).

While vaccines play a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19, therapeutics are needed to limit the need for hospitalisation, speed up recovery times, reduce mortality and alleviate lasting symptoms, or long COVID. They will continue to play an essential as the coronavirus continues to mutate and large groups of people remain who cannot or do not want to get vaccinated. 

The event brings together 250 participants throughout the value chain from 25 EU member states and other countries in an attempt to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 therapeutics in the EU. It will focus on both new and repurposed medicines aimed at treating all stages of the disease.  

The event also aims to enhance participation of companies in EU value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics, strengthen connections between organisations and companies and help in production planning.

In the opening speech Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that having half of the EU adult population fully vaccinated is not yet enough to ward off danger. 

“With the spread of variants and the resurgence of cases across the EU in recent weeks, the development of therapeutics is more necessary than ever. I am encouraging companies to step forward and join forces to develop and produce COVID-19 therapeutics in the EU,” she said.

EU revives coordinated approach in purchasing COVID drugs

The European Commission has unveiled its strategy on COVID-19 therapies, described as another milestone in fighting the virus as it aims to speed up recovery, reduce hospitalisation and help those suffering from long COVID.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton meanwhile highlighted the importance of new partnerships across the industrial system.

We now want to forge new collaborations to ensure that Europe also leads the way in developing new life-saving COVID-19 treatments,” he told the event.  

The event is the latest step in the implementation of the Commission’s strategy on COVID-19 therapeutics adopted in May 2021. The strategy covers the full lifecycle of medicines from research, development, selection of promising candidates, fast regulatory approval, manufacturing and deployment to final use.

Five promising therapeutics

The target set under the strategy is to have three new COVID-19 therapeutics authorised by October 2021 and possibly two more by the end of the year.

The first portfolio of five candidate therapeutics, that are in an advanced stage of development and could soon be available to treat patients across the EU, was announced at the end of June. 

Four of these therapeutics are monoclonal antibodies under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Another one is an immunosuppressant, which has a marketing authorisation that could be extended to include the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

New COVID-19 indication for existing medicines

There should be new therapeutics added to the portfolio, as the Commission is said to draw up a portfolio of at least 10 potential COVID-19 therapeutics by October. 

Since different types of products are needed for different patient populations and different stages and severity of the disease, the expert group will identify product categories and select the most promising candidates for each category based on science-based criteria. 

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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