Washington, DC—With substantial portions of the American public remaining unvaccinated against COVID-19, federal officials are helping to accelerate development of antiviral medicines to reduce severity of novel coronavirus cases.

Using American Rescue Plan funds, the Biden Administration is investing more than $3 billion to speed up discovery, development, and manufacturing of antiviral medicines. The Antiviral Program for Pandemics will seek to develop highly effective oral antiviral medicines that can be taken at home early in the course of infection. The hope is that the new medications would be similar to antiviral treatment for influenza and save lives while also preventing unmanageable surges in hospitalizations, according to a Department of Health and Human Services press release.

“New antivirals that prevent serious COVID-19 illness and death, especially oral drugs that could be taken at home early in the course of disease, would be powerful tools for battling the pandemic and saving lives,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to the President and NIAID Director. “Through multidisciplinary collaborations among leading scientists in academia and industry, this investment from the American Rescue Plan to create the Antiviral Program for Pandemics will help inspire medical innovation and build on the extraordinary success we have seen in developing the COVID-19 vaccines.”

Through a public-private partnership, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutics and Vaccines (ACTIV), 19 therapeutic agents have been prioritized for testing in rigorous clinical trials for outpatients and inpatients with COVID-19.

“Having additional FDA-authorized antiviral medicines available within a year would be a major breakthrough in ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect the public, which is why last week the Administration announced it would procure more than 1.5 million regimens of a Merck investigational antiviral treatment, should it receive emergency use authorization,” according to HHS.

David Kessler, MD, chief science officer for the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 response, explained, “An easily administered oral antiviral drug would be an important part of our therapeutic arsenal that would complement the great success of our vaccine efforts.”

The National Institutes of Health will evaluate, prioritize, and advance antiviral candidates to phase II clinical trials; the goal is to reduce risks for early-stage development. More than $300 million will be provided for research and lab support, nearly $1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation, and nearly $700 million for development and manufacturing through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

“This plan builds on the long, successful partnership between BARDA and NIH to develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, from combatting Ebola, anthrax and smallpox, to now tackling COVID-19,” said BARDA Director Gary Disbrow, PhD. Throughout this public-health emergency, we have worked with industry to develop treatments to reduce severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, and this proposal will help us go even further to accelerate and deliver more safe and effective treatments that are easy to administer.”

The plan also allocates up to $1.2 billion to support the creation of collaborative drug-discovery groups for future viral threats.

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