too good to be true?

Coronavirus: Gates Foundation invests millions in Covid cure Molnupiravir

By Jaysim Hanspal

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Posted on October 26, 2021 10:06

A handout photo of an experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP
An experimental Covid-19 treatment pill called Molnupiravir. May 17, 2021. Merck & Co Inc/Handout via REUTERS

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced it was spending up to $120m to secure a “dedicated, low-cost” supply of the drug Molnupiravir for lower-income countries. The next potential Covid-19 breakthrough, still pending authorisation from bodies like the American FDA, is an oral antiviral that has shown a reduction in hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 by 50%.

Molnupiravir, first created by Emory University’s not-for-profit biotechnology company, targets the viral polymerase, an enzyme needed for the virus to make copies of itself. It works by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus, like sand in a machine. The drug is now in the hands of American pharmaceutical companies Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck & Co.

In the US, the drug will retail at $700 per treatment – 40 capsules over five days. In an advisory meeting on 30 November, it is expected that the drug will be regulated for ‘emergency use authorisation’ in the US and could be rolled out as soon as December.

‘Easier and cheaper’

Despite concerns over the cost of treatment, Trevor Mundel, president of the Foundation’s Global Health Programmes, tells The Africa Report that the new synthesis supported by the Foundation makes it “easier and cheaper” to make the drug. Mundel says they’re “looking at the single digits” for a full treatment.

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