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Partnerships are critical to unlocking medical breakthroughs in our fight against COVID-19

Julian Thompson
Vice President, Global Regulatory Operations and Sandwich Site Head
Pfizer UK

30 April 2020

Deborah Clark
Senior Director, Global Regulatory Affairs and Hurley Site Head
Pfizer UK

Pfizer is one of many organisations doing all it can to fight COVID-19 across the world. We believe science will win in the end, but it is through partnership and collaboration that we will get there faster.

Pfizer researchers and scientists have been taking as broad a view as possible in our efforts to combat the virus. Working tirelessly in partnership with global innovators, our scientists are looking at what we can do to find new treatments to help those patients fighting the virus right now; to develop a vaccine to prevent outbreaks and ultimately save more lives; and to enhance our collective understanding of COVID-19 and pandemics so we can be better prepared in the future. Find out more about Pfizer Inc's five-point plan.

UK Research and Development is deeply embedded in this work. We are harnessing the world-leading clinical expertise at our Sandwich and Hurley sites - where we have a long and proud history of research and development – and our colleagues are working around the clock as part of the global search for treatments to combat COVID-19.

At the very top of the priority list right now is getting potential medicines into clinical trials faster than ever before. Our scientists are leaving no stone unturned as they search for a solution to help patients fight the virus.

As the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak became increasingly apparent, Pfizer created a SWAT team of our leading scientists and other key experts to focus solely on addressing this pandemic. They have been using their considerable expertise to identify a potential anti-viral treatment from molecules first discovered in response to the SARS outbreak in 2003. The team’s investigations have borne fruit and colleagues have now identified one candidate with real potential that has shown activities against the virus.

The Sandwich team has been a key part of this process. Current efforts are focused on the production of materials for preclinical testing, clinical formulation development and clinical supplies in order to support pre-clinical modelling on dose setting and clinical trial design. Our Sandwich colleagues are also responsible for looking at how we could develop the compound into a potential medicine.

Pending successful results, we anticipate that we could begin dosing in healthy volunteers as soon as Q3 2020, six to 12 months faster than normal, and will explore every opportunity to accelerate timelines further. This is an exciting development that is being shaped by the efforts of Sandwich colleagues in close partnership with laboratories globally.

We are harnessing the world-leading clinical expertise at our Sandwich and Hurley sites - where we have a long and proud history of research and development – and our colleagues are working around the clock as part of the global search for treatments to combat COVID-19.

These kinds of collaborations are at the heart of Pfizer’s investigative work, whether it’s in pursuit of possible antiviral therapies or a vaccine to prevent further outbreaks.

In the five weeks since Pfizer and German biotech firm, BioNTech, announced the joining of forces to co-develop a potential first-in-class, mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine programme aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection, clinical trials have already been approved. The trials for four vaccine candidates are commencing in Europe, and we anticipate the green light for trials in the US before the end of April. In only a short time, Pfizer and BioNTech, have completed activity that would usually take 12 months. Find out more about our collaboration with BioNTech.

Pfizer’s focus on prevention and treatment is complemented by a desire to conduct research to better understand the disease and the impact it might have on patients with other health conditions. This is the motivation behind another partnership that has developed out of the COVID-19 crisis.

Pfizer and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s (LSTM) Respiratory Infection Clinical Research Group have launched two new studies to provide insights on the interaction between S. pneumoniae and COVID-19.

Together, we are looking into whether patients infected with COVID-19 have a higher risk of also developing pneumococcal pneumonia and if having both infections leads to more severe disease and poorer outcomes for patients. Pfizer colleagues will conduct pneumococcal antigen and antibody assays to identify pneumonia type and related serotype, while the team at the LSTM will perform the majority of the testing. Find out more.

What we are hoping to achieve with this research is more knowledge about the disease so we can provide important insights into pandemic planning; the treatment of acutely ill patients; and inform health authorities on developing vaccine recommendations for at-risk populations.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the entire healthcare ecosystem has had to react at an unprecedented pace, drawing on decades of clinical research and adjusting to operating in a climate that requires a very different mindset. Pfizer is proud to be part of these efforts, ensuring we are covering all bases to help patients in dire need today, while also looking to discover preventative solutions for the future that will help safeguard people across the world against further outbreaks of this devastating virus.

PP-PFE-GBR-2543 / April 2020