April 23, 2020

Financial Times

Javier Espinoza and Michael Peel

The race for a vaccine

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The EU has backed an effort to use supercomputers to vet drug candidates for a coronavirus vaccine, write Javier Espinoza and Michael Peel.

The initiative, in collaboration with pharma giant Sanofi, is part of Europe’s push to deploy electronic processing power in the urgent quest for a vaccine. The French drugmaker will work with Greenpharma and a coalition of 33 partners, including biological and biochemical institutes, to add to a database of thousands of existing drugs aimed at discovering which molecules could combat the virus.

The consortium, which has €3m in EU emergency funds, has already tested 6,000 molecules and is evaluating 40 of them for pre-clinical trials.
Italian drugmaker Dompé is leading the EU project and has made freely available its library of small molecules to assess the efficacy of all drugs to fight the virus.
A separate scheme known as Jedi and supported by the Axa Research Fund and Merck, the pharmaceuticals business, aims to model a billion or more molecules in search of those potentially active against the new coronavirus. Jedi is overseen by a scientific committee that includes Sir Peter Ratcliffe, co-winner of last year’s Nobel laureate for medicine.