Corona Accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE) consortium launched

Set to be the biggest campaign of its kind in Europe, the CARE consortium is being supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (INI), as well as funding from the European Union, eleven European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) companies and three IMI-Associated Partners.

With funding totalling €77.7 million, the CARE consortium will bring together expertise and projects of 37 teams from academic and non-profit research institutions and pharmaceutical companies worldwide.

Partners from Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US will be involved.

In addition, CARE will maximise synergies and complementarities with other initiatives such as the Gates Foundation-supported Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, and the ECRAID network, among others.

A five year project that will integrate partners’ Covid-19 projects ongoing since February 2020, the initiative is being 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).

Small molecule drug design activities in the consortium, meanwhile, will be led by Exscientia (UK), and will involve application of Exscientia’s full-stack AI platform to generate and optimise the design of new medicines, and the CARE chemical starting points from phenotypic, target-based and in silico screens to deliver candidates into clinical trials.

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“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,” said Professor Yves Lévy, executive director of the VRI-Inserm and CARE coordinator.

“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 5-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.”

Professor Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia, commented: “The CARE consortium has ambitious goals to deliver pan-coronoviral therapeutics that can be useful in the current and future viral pandemics.

“We are taking a comprehensive approach to developing agents against multiple coronavirus drug targets. Exscientia is proud to be at the heart of this joint research effort, as the primary drug design centre.

“We intend to bring the demonstrated speed and power of our cutting-edge AI-platform to CARE to accelerate the delivery of anti-coronavirus drug candidates to the clinic to meet the urgent needs of patients.”

After testing in the laboratory, the project will advance the most promising drug candidates to clinical trials in humans.

Short and long-term Covid-19 response

The CARE consortium will be built on three pillars:

  • Drug repositioning, via 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 neutralising antibody discovery using fully human phage and yeast display, immunisation of humanised animal models, patient B cells and in silico design.