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The BHP Foundation has committed $3 million (AUD) to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with support for two world-leading research institutions based in Australia.

The Foundation will provide $2 million to support the University of Queensland (UQ) to develop a potential vaccine currently in clinical development. It’s one of eight promising vaccine candidates globally currently supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) rapid response program, with potential to be manufactured at scale and made available around the world including to Australians and people in low and middle-income countries. 

“This generous commitment from the BHP Foundation has the potential to change lives worldwide by fast-tracking the development of promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate now undergoing preclinical safety and efficacy studies.”

“We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of government, corporate and philanthropic partners who have responded to our urgent call to support this important work,” says UQ Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne will receive $1 million from the Foundation for its Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT). This clinical trial will test the effectiveness and safety of potential COVID-19 treatment drugs in patients hospitalised with the virus, in the hope they will prevent them deteriorating to the point of needing a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said: “As a new disease, there are currently no treatment options for COVID-19. The aim of ASCOT is to test the safety and efficacy of existing drugs in a controlled environment in the hope we can use them to save lives.”

“We thank the BHP Foundation for their generous gift of $1M, which will go a long way in supporting this important trial being rolled out in more than 80 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.”

BHP Foundation CEO James Ensor said the devastating global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires a collective response from governments, businesses and the global philanthropic sector.

“As a global community we have to come together” said James. “We all have a responsibility to play our part in finding solutions.”

“Ultimately there are only two solution pathways: life-saving treatment for people infected by COVID-19 and the development of a vaccine to prevent more COVID-19 infections.”

“Around the world research teams are working tirelessly on both treatment and vaccine. They are some of the unsung heroes in this pandemic.”

“With an estimated 40 million lives potentially at risk, there is no sustainable Plan B in the absence of solutions, the BHP Foundation is determined to play our part and support their efforts.”

‘As well as supporting this vital vaccine research, we continue to support our existing partners and the many communities they work with around the world, to help sustain them through this crisis,’ said James.

CEPI, UQ and its partners are committed to equitable access of any vaccine solution, ensuring that appropriate vaccines are first available to populations when and where they are needed to end an outbreak or curtail an epidemic, regardless of ability to pay.

The Doherty Institute is a joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital and has expertise in multiple aspects of infectious diseases. The Institute is playing a major role in the global and Australian response to COVID-19.

ASCOT is an international clinical trial led by Associate Professor Steven Tong, Professor Josh Davis and Associate Professor Justin Denholm in collaboration with the Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases. There will be over 70 sites in Australia and 11 sites in New Zealand participating in the trial with the aim of enrolling over 2,000 participants.

The BHP Foundation is a charitable organization funded by BHP, a leading global resources company, and works to address some of the world’s most critical sustainable development challenges.

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