Europe’s largest initiative to accelerate COVID-19 therapy development is launched

The Corona Accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE) consortium was launched on 18 August with a grant totalling €77.7 million. It is Europe’s largest initiative to accelerate therapy development for COVID-19 and future coronavirus threats.

The consortium is supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) public-private partnership to accelerate the discovery and development of urgently needed medicines to treat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

CARE is funded by cash contributions from the European Union (EU) and cash and in-kind contributions from eleven European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) companies and three IMI-Associated Partners.

The initiative is a five-year project bringing together 37 partners from Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US, and is led by VRI-Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Paris, France), Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Beerse, Belgium), and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International AG, (Zurich, Switzerland). It integrates partners’ COVID-19 projects ongoing since February 2020.

Professor Yves Lévy, Executive Director of the VRI-Inserm and CARE coordinator, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as the largest global health threat to humanity in this century, requiring the global scientific community to join forces in unprecedented ways. Beyond the scientific excellence of the different teams involved in this very ambitious project, CARE is bringing together 37 partners in an alliance pooling their expertise and know-how around an ambitious five-year work plan to develop therapeutics against the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are very grateful for the financial support provided by the Innovative Medicine Initiative that will enable us to implement this plan.”

Uniting some of the most innovative and experienced scientists from all relevant areas in a unique collaborative spirit, CARE will maximize synergies with other initiatives such as the Gates Foundation-supported COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, MANCO , SCORE , and the ECRAID network, to accelerate the path to providing solutions for the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future coronavirus outbreaks. After testing in the laboratory, the project will advance the most promising drug candidates to clinical trials in humans.

The CARE consortium builds on three pillars:

  • Drug repositioning, by screening and profiling compound libraries contributed by partners with the aim of rapidly progressing molecules to advanced stages of clinical testing.
  • Small-molecule drug discovery based on in silico screening and profiling of candidate compounds directed against SARS-CoV-2 and future coronavirus targets.
  • Virus neutralizing antibody discovery using fully human phage and yeast display, immunisation of humanised animal models, patient B cells and in silico design.

Closely integrated with these pillars are work streams focusing on the refinement of candidate compounds through a comprehensive medicinal chemistry campaign, systems biology research and pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of molecules from all three pillars. The systems biology work package will investigate the viral pathophysiology to increase our understanding of the interplay between virus infection stages and human immune responses. It will identify disease markers, to inform therapy development and improve clinical trial design and monitoring of Phase 1 and 2 trials investigating new therapeutics developed by CARE.

Partners include:

  1. (Coordinator) VRI-Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) FR
  2. (Project Leader) Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Janssen) BE
  3. (Project co-Leader) Takeda Pharmaceuticals International AG (Takeda) CH
  4. Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) FR
  5. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) CH
  6. Eurovacc Foundation (EVF) CH
  7. Exscientia Limited (EXSCI) UK
  8. Goethe University Frankfurt (GUF) DE
  9. Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH (HZI) DE
  10. Uniwersytet Jagiellonski (JU) PL
  11. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) BE
  12. Academisch Ziekenhuis Leiden (LUMC) NL
  13. Servicio Madrileno De Salud (SERMAS) ES
  14. Nuvisan ICB GmbH (NUVISAN) DE
  15. Scifeon ApS (SCIFEON) DK
  16. Université d’Aix Marseille (AMU) FR
  17. The University of Edinburgh (UEDIN) UK
  18. University of Hamburg (UHAM) DE
  19. Universitaet zu Luebeck (UzL) DE
  20. Universiteit Utrecht (UU) NL
  21. Eidgenoessisches Departement des Innern (EDI-IVI) CH
  22. Inserm Transfert SA (IT) FR
  23. AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) US
  24. Astellas Pharma Europe BV (ASTELLAS) NL
  25. Bayer AG (BAG) DE
  26. Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) DE
  27. University of Dundee (UNIVDUN) UK
  28. Enyo Pharma SA (ENYO) FR
  29. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) US
  30. Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI) CN
  31. Novartis Pharma AG (NOVARTIS) CH
  32. Pfizer
  33. Merck KGaA (Merck) DE
  34. University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) DE
  35. Ai-biopharma (AIB) FR
  36. AiCuris Anti-infective Cures GmbH (AiCuris) DE
  37. Institut de Recherches Internationales Servier (Servier) FR