A roundtable hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Bill Gates and the heads of ten life science and pharmaceutical companies met this week to discuss coronavirus and how to prevent future pandemics.
At the online meeting Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said every head of state was facing two questions: how can we end the current pandemic? And how can we prevent the next one?
“To answer those questions the world needs a comprehensive strategy; a coherent approach to financing and manufacturing billions of doses of vaccines, tests and drugs; and a network to monitor for new threats,” he said.
He welcomed the commitment from life-science companies to expand equitable access to treatment and he said his foundation would continue to work with the UK government to maintain progress.
Prime minister Johnson told the meeting that defeating coronavirus and preventing future pandemics was a “truly global endeavour, requiring ingenuity, tenacity and a spirit of openness to succeed.”
And he added: “Bill Gates sounded the alarm on the world’s lack of preparation for a major health crisis long before most of us had heard the word ‘coronavirus.’ And now we must heed his call to stop something like this ever happening again”.
He praised the “herculean joint effort’ from life science companies and research institutions on COVID-19.
He also pledged that the UK would use its G7 presidency next year to support the global effort to tackle the pandemic.
Taking part in the roundtable were the CEOs of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis AG, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi.
They described the “unprecedented collaborative effort” across the industry to develop new technologies and treatments at pace.
And they pledged to help ensure equitable global access to any successful COVID-19 vaccine.
They also called for investment in R&D and support for open supply chains and innovation.
The prime minister outlined the UK’s five-point plan to prevent future pandemics, first set out at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The plan includes creating a global network of zoonotic disease research hubs, expanding manufacturing capacity for vaccines and treatments and agreeing international protocols for health crises.
Mr Johnson asked for the pharmaceutical industry’s support to develop and implement the recommendations.