The US will invest more than $3 billion to advance the development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other pathogens to prepare for future pandemics, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert announced the $3.2 billion investment as part of a new “antiviral program for pandemics” to develop drugs to address symptoms caused by potentially dangerous viruses.
“It’s a whole-of-government effort aimed at developing the next generation of COVID-19 treatments, as well as preparing us for future threats,” Fauci said at the White House’s coronavirus press briefing.
Fauci said the new program would allocate funds to “accelerating things that are already in progress” for COVID-19 in addition to working on developing new therapies.
“There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have pandemic potential,” he said.
The funding will help speed up the development of COVID-19 pills, which could be on the market by the end of the year pending clinical trials.
Fauci said the antiviral pills, which would work to reduce symptoms after infection, could play a critical role in treating immunocompromised patients, who are unlikely to have full protection from vaccines compared to healthy people.
“Vaccines clearly remained the centerpiece of our arsenal against COVID-19,” Fauci said.
“However, antivirals can and are an important complement to existing vaccines, especially for individuals with certain conditions that might put them at a greater risk for those who vaccines may not be as protective. We know that there are many people who are immunosuppressed in which vaccines at least initially, may not give an optimal response,” he said.