Today the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome each pledged US$150 million for a total of US$300 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership launched five years ago this week by the governments of Norway and India, the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and the World Economic Forum. The pledges come ahead of a global replenishment conference in March to support CEPI’s visionary five-year plan to better prepare for, prevent, and equitably respond to future epidemics and pandemics.
Since its inception, CEPI has played a central scientific role in curbing epidemics around the world, overseeing a number of scientific breakthroughs and putting pandemic preparedness at the center of the global health R&D agenda. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, CEPI responded immediately, building one of the world’s largest and most diverse portfolios of COVID-19 vaccine candidates—14 in all, including six of which continue to receive funding, and three of which have been granted emergency use listing by the World Health Organization (WHO).
CEPI made early investments in the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is now saving lives around the world. Last month, Novavax’s protein-based COVID-19 vaccine—funded largely by CEPI—received WHO emergency use listing and is poised to help efforts to control the pandemic globally. More than 1 billion doses of the Novavax vaccine are now available to COVAX, the global initiative co-led by CEPI that aims to deliver equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. CEPI also continues to work on next-generation COVID-19 vaccines, including “variant-proof” COVID-19 vaccines and shots that could protect against all coronaviruses, potentially removing the threat of future coronavirus pandemics.
Beyond COVID-19, CEPI has filled a vital gap in supporting vaccine equity alongside R&D. CEPI is currently supporting the research and development of accessible vaccines against other infectious diseases, including the first-ever vaccines to reach clinical trials against the deadly Nipah and Lassa viruses. The organization has also played a critical role in efforts to end Ebola, including supporting the development of a second Ebola vaccine by Janssen. In addition to advancing the science underlying vaccine development and new vaccine platforms, CEPI is focused on dramatically reducing the time it takes to develop lifesaving vaccines against any new viral threat (referred to as “Disease X”)—to within 100 days of a pathogen being sequenced. This represents a combination of scale and speed that could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars.
The pandemic has rebounded in waves around the world, highlighting the important role of international organizations like CEPI that put equitable access at the core of their mission. Recent data from Northeastern University show that had the availability of vaccines in lower-income countries like Kenya been akin to that in high-income countries like the UK or the U.S., 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths to date would have been averted.
The United Kingdom will host CEPI’s replenishment conference on March 8, 2022, in London. The fundraising event will convene governments, philanthropists, and other donors to support CEPI’s five-year plan to tackle the risk of pandemics and epidemics, potentially preventing millions of deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage.