The BHP Foundation has committed A$3 million to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with support for two world-leading research institutions based in Australia.
The Foundation will provide A$2 million to support the University of Queensland (UQ) to develop a potential vaccine currently in clinical development. It’s one of eight promising vaccine candidates around the globe currently supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) rapid response program, with potential to be manufactured at scale and made available around the world including to Australians and people in low and middle-income countries.
“This generous commitment from the BHP Foundation has the potential to change lives worldwide by fast-tracking the development of promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate now undergoing preclinical safety and efficacy studies,” said UQ Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj. “We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of government, corporate and philanthropic partners who have responded to our urgent call to support this important work.”
The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne will receive A$1 million from the Foundation for its Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT). This clinical trial will test the effectiveness and safety of potential COVID-19 treatment drugs in patients hospitalised with the virus, in the hope they will prevent them deteriorating to the point of needing a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute, said: “As a new disease, there are currently no treatment options for COVID-19. The aim of ASCOT is to test the safety and efficacy of existing drugs in a controlled environment in the hope we can use them to save lives.”
“We thank the BHP Foundation for their generous gift of $1M, which will go a long way in supporting this important trial being rolled out in more than 80 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.
BHP Foundation CEO James Ensor said the devastating global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a collective response from governments, businesses and the global philanthropic sector. “As a global community, we have to come together,” said Mr Ensor. “We all have a responsibility to play our part in finding solutions.”
“Ultimately there are only two solution pathways: life-saving treatment for people infected by COVID-19 and the development of a vaccine to prevent more COVID-19 infections. Around the world research teams are working tirelessly on both treatment and vaccine. They are some of the unsung heroes in this pandemic,” he said.
“With an estimated 40 million lives potentially at risk, there is no sustainable Plan B in the absence of solutions, the BHP Foundation is determined to play our part and support their efforts. As well as supporting this vital vaccine research, we continue to support our existing partners and the many communities they work with around the world, to help sustain them through this crisis,” concluded Mr James.