The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a $3.2 billion plan to fight COVID-19 and other viruses through antiviral medicines.
Under the plan, the government will use the money to boost clinical research and manufacturing of new antiviral drugs to combat COVID-19.
The plan will eventually expand to push for the discovery of drugs to treat viruses that could potentially unleash the next pandemic.
“There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have what we call pandemic potential,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters at a briefing.
The infusion of money to private companies and academic institutions aims to speed up clinical trials for potential drug candidates. Roughly $500 million will go toward drug research and an additional $1 billion will be allocated for preclinical trials.
Dr. Fauci said the program will be funded through the COVID-19 relief package that President Biden signed into law earlier this year. The funding package includes money for existing research and development of new COVID-19 treatments.
Antivirals are a class of medicines used to treat viral infections by minimizing the symptoms and duration of the illness.
Dr. Fauci said vaccines remain “the centerpiece” of the fight against COVID-19, but antivirals “add a line of defense against variants of concern.”
He also said he has a “great deal of optimism about the program,” saying it was similar to earlier government programs to fight the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and hepatitis C.
In the 1990s, NIH research led to some of the earliest antiviral pills for HIV, which helped keep the virus from ravaging its carriers.