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Pandemic Preparedness: Accelerating the Discovery of New Therapeutics

January 10 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Organized by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Pandemic Preparedness: Accelerating the Discovery of New Therapeutics

January 10, 2022


The COVID-19 pandemic showed how poorly prepared we were to deal with a newly-emerging respiratory virus. Antiviral drugs with the appropriate spectrum of activity can protect against a new pandemic threat until a vaccine can be developed and deployed. Drugs should be suitable for post-exposure prophylaxis or treatment of mild disease, possess oral activity with a good safety profile, have low cost of goods, and be easy to deliver and suitable for combination. The global research community must act collectively to generate a toolkit of antiviral agents covering a number of viral families. Scientists from many sectors – industry, academia, non-profits – will be involved, working in a multidisciplinary effort. This presentation provides a perspective on pandemic preparedness, the approaches that are being taken to tackle this problem, and the need to ensure equitable access to any drugs that are developed.

Ken Duncan is Deputy Director of Discovery & Translational Sciences within the Global Health Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He leads the foundation’s efforts in drug discovery across therapeutic areas currently including TB, malaria, antivirals and contraception. He recently coordinated the drug discovery response to COVID-19 then developed and is implementing a strategy for pandemic preparedness to identify safe, effective agents that can be deployed in low-resource settings. Before joining the foundation in 2007, he spent 16 years in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently as Director, Diseases of the Developing World at GSK. Dr. Duncan obtained a BSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of Glasgow. Dr. Duncan conducted Postdoctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School.

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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine