BHP Foundation commits $3M to prevention and treatment of COVID-19

The BHP Foundation has generously committed $1 million for the AustralaSian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT), a clinical trial aimed at testing the effectiveness and safety of potential drugs in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

Led by Associate Professor Steven Tong, a Royal Melbourne Hospital infectious diseases clinician and co-lead of clinical research at the Doherty Institute, ASCOT has opened at two sites, with plans to recruit patients at over 70 hospitals across the country, in every state and territory, alongside 11 hospitals in New Zealand.

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said that 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,” she said.

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

The Foundation will also provide $2 million to support the University of Queensland (UQ) to develop a potential vaccine currently in clinical development, which the Doherty Institute is also collaborating on. 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.

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,” he said, “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,” he concluded.