PHE has also been awarded $500,000 by the US FDA to bolster the international response.
As of this morning – Wednesday 25th March – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 8,077, with 422 deaths and 135 recoveries.
As efforts are accelerated to develop new diagnostic testing and discover a treatment, AstraZeneca has pledged nine million face masks to support healthcare workers around the world in response to the pandemic.
The company has partnered with the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform, created with the support of the World Health Organisation, to identify countries in greatest need. As a result Italy will receive the first shipments – manufactured and distributed from China – this week, with other countries to follow.
On top of the donations, AstraZeneca is accelerating the development of its diagnostic testing capabilities to scale-up screening, and is also working in partnership with governments on existing screening programmes to supplement testing. In addition, to help ensure the continued supply of its medicines to patients, AstraZeneca has said it will screen employees across its manufacturing and supply network.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer, said: “Our first thoughts are with those suffering from this global pandemic and with the brave healthcare workers who are caring for them.
As a company, we have prioritised our response by partnering with international health authorities and others to share our scientific knowledge and expertise, and we have taken this step to donate these masks as we continue to accelerate our efforts on diagnostic testing and a treatment against COVID-19.”
Public Health England (PHE) has also recently revealed that its scientists are playing a critical role in international efforts to find the vaccine, having been awarded $500,000 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bolster the international response.
The funding comes as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) funds PHE to evaluate vaccines in their pipeline vaccine that are destined for clinical trials as early as April 2020.
The UK government has previously announced £20million of funding for vaccine development, awarded to CEPI, who will award significant further funding to support PHE’s work.
Professor Miles Carroll, deputy director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said: “Public Health England is uniquely positioned to support and drive the country’s hunt for a coronavirus vaccine – using tried and tested methods for the rapid development of interventions for emerging diseases.
“We look forward to continuing to work with world-leading academic and pharmaceutical partners to accelerate progress towards safe and effective interventions to limit the impact of this new infection as rapidly as possible.”
The updates come as the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Meeting has announced that it will not be held as planned this spring due to public health and safety concerns related to the pandemic, but will instead go ahead in a virtual format, the details of which are still being finalised.