A new Antivirals Taskforce has been launched by the government to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.
The taskforce will search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rapidly rolled out to patients as early as the autumn.
The taskforce will also look at opportunities to onshore the manufacture of antiviral treatments.
The aim is to have at least two effective treatments this year, either in a tablet or capsule form, that the public can take at home following a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to someone with the virus.
This will be another vital tool to combat any future increase in infections and limit the impact of new variants, especially over the flu season later this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
The antivirals could be used alone or in combination with one another in order to increase effectiveness and reduce the risk of further mutations.
The new taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its vital work to identify and supply treatments found to be effective in clinical trials, for all stages of a patient’s exposure and response to COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19 – including the world’s first treatment dexamethasone, which has since saved 22,000 lives in the UK so far and an estimated million worldwide.
The UK’s renowned life sciences sector makes it the ideal base for the brightest of global innovators to research and progress cutting-edge treatments for COVID-19 through the clinical trials process here in Britain.
Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said:
Dr Nikita Kanani, Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England, said: