Published in the Korea Biomedical Review & the Korean Doctors’ Weekly
The new coronavirus pandemic has affected more than 800,000 people around the world as of Tuesday. Originated in Wuhan, China, the deadly virus has swept the globe and killed over 40,000.
Experts warn that a new infectious disease without a treatment or vaccine, such as COVID-19, could claim scores of millions of people until a treatment arrives.
To contain the pandemic, many pharmaceutical companies are rushing to develop a treatment or a vaccine against COVID-19. However, it is still uncertain when the pandemic will end because it is almost impossible to predict when treatment and a vaccine will be available.
The problem is that many drugmakers tend to stop working on drug or vaccine candidates once a pandemic ends. Prices of vaccines and treatments for developing countries, in particular, are likely to be set low. At the same time, a drug firm has to spend over a decade and millions of dollars to develop a single medicine. Such circumstances make it difficult for businesses to invest in affordable drugs in developing countries.
Thus, researchers in the infectious diseases and neglected diseases sector need R&D funds so that they can continue their work. To solve this problem, the Research Investment for Global Health Technology (RIGHT) Fund, a non-profit public-private partnership group, supports R&D funds.
Established in Korea in July 2018, RIGHT Fund consists of funds jointly invested by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, LG Chem, SK Bioscience, GC Pharma, Chong Kun Dang, Genexine, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The organization selects R&D projects for vaccines, treatments and diagnostic technologies for infectious diseases and supports R&D expenses.
Korea Biomedical Review has met with infectious disease specialist Paul Herrling, chairman of the Selection Committee at the RIGHT Fund, to learn what roles public health researchers and pharmaceutical companies should play to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herrling previously served as vice president of the board of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and professor for Drug Discovery Science at the Philosophisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and global head of research at Novartis.