Global health challenges

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe is a major public health threat for all. The industry is fully supportive of efforts that will ensure the scientific community can respond quickly to the challenges this pandemic represents.

A novel coronavirus – a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans – first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. Throughout January 2020, the number of cases in China increased substantially, while first cases in neighbouring countries and ultimately Europe and the United States were confirmed. Having spread to 19 countries and first confirmed human-to-human transmission outside of China, the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020. On March 7, the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 100,000, affecting over 100 countries. On March 11, given the global spread of the virus with particularly escalating outbreaks in Iran and Italy, and sharp increases in other European countries, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The declaration of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11 is of major concern to the biopharmaceutical industry. The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe is a major public health threat for all affected countries; and is of particular concern for those countries with weaker health systems who could be disproportionately impacted.

As a science-driven industry that aims to address some of the world’s biggest healthcare challenges, the research-based biopharmaceutical industry is uniquely positioned to respond rapidly to COVID-19. It has deep scientific knowledge gained from decades of experience working on developing solutions for combatting a range of infectious diseases such as MERS, SARS, Ebola and influenza, as well as experience working with health authorities and regulators to find a fast-tracked approach to bringing safe and effective medicines to market for patients.

The rapid virus sequencing by the scientific community enabled researchers to characterize and begin to understand the new threat posed by COVID-19. Biopharmaceutical companies with potentially relevant knowhow were thereby enabled to get their scientists to check their R&D libraries for potential assets that could fight coronaviruses.

The Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data or GISAID Initiative, an open access platform partly funded by the private sector, played a critical role in sharing the first genome sequences of the novel coronavirus and centralizing their collection. This has proven vital in speeding up the sharing of information among scientists as well as public health authorities.

IFPMA members are fully committed to bringing their unique expertise in research, development and manufacturing of diagnostics, medicines and vaccines to the table. Please go to IFPMA COVID-19 Online Hub.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause light illnesses, such as the common cold, to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Virus genetic sequence

shared in January 2020

COVID-19 was declared a

global pandemic by the WHO on March 11

By early April nearly

nearly every country globally reports confirmed cases of COVID-19

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