Frequently Asked Questions

What is the goal of the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund?

We're on a mission to find an existing drug or drug combination that, when given early, reduces hospitalization and fatality rates by 75% or more. We’re doing this by funding clinical trials of repurposed drugs that could lead to effective early treatments for COVID-19.

Shouldn’t we focus on a vaccine?

Many people look to a vaccine as the best hope for recovery, but a vaccine is a long-term solution that could take a year or more to develop and mass produce, not to mention to deliver to 7.5 billion people. It will take time to demonstrate safety and questions still remain about the efficacy of a potential vaccine. Further, vaccines may not be viable options for all patient populations. We need to work on a parallel path to identify early treatments using existing drugs as soon as possible. This will be the fastest way to reduce hospitalizations and deaths while we wait for a potential vaccine.

Will repurposing existing drugs work?

Years of experience and existing research give the world-class scientists on our Scientific Advisory Board confidence that there are existing drugs out there that can be effective in treating COVID-19. But we won't know for sure until we've tested these drugs in outpatient trials.

Why should we focus on existing drugs to address COVID-19?

Repurposing existing drugs offers the fastest and least expensive way to find effective treatments for COVID-19. Since these drugs have been approved for other purposes, we have a better understanding of their side effect profiles, and they are already in production. This greatly reduces the time and expense needed to demonstrate safety and ramp up production that we would otherwise face with new drugs, in addition to the time it would take to develop those drugs.

Why are outpatient trials of early treatments important to addressing COVID-19?

In addition to a vaccine, this virus requires treatments that can be given to patients soon after infection. Our focus is on preventing hospitalizations. By keeping people out of the hospital, we can also safely reopen the country and prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths. Outpatient trials are by far the fastest way to find these early treatments. They require fewer resources and can begin earlier in the course of the disease, before patients are hospitalized.

How quickly can we expect results from CETF’s efforts?

Once funded, outpatient trials could identify an effective early treatment within just a few months. The beauty of the repurposed drug approach is if we find promising data, we can rapidly translate that to broader open access trials and more widespread use, as appropriate.

What kind of therapies are you looking at?

Our Scientific Advisory Board has identified these drugs as the most promising to test.

How did you create your scientific advisory board?

Our Scientific Advisory Board is led by Chairman Robert Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D., an immunologist and virologist working on HIV at Johns Hopkins University. Chairman Siliciano hand-picked the remaining members of the advisory board to bring together an unmatched team of independent physician-scientists selected for their diverse and complementary expertise. View the full board here.

What are the biggest obstacles so far?

The three primary obstacles are lack of funding for drug repurposing, recognition of the need for a treatment in addition to a vaccine and recruiting for outpatient trials. Researchers are kept waiting while governments focus on vaccine research.

How can I support this potentially life-saving research?

You can read more about our work and take one of three actions: donate, participate (find a trial), or apply for funding.

How big is the fund?

Our goal is to raise at least $20 million. This allows us to act rapidly and commit to funding a project because all the dollars are available. This will allow us to fully commit once the grant is approved. This also accelerates FDA approval since the FDA prioritizes trials that are funded.

Why should I donate?

The government isn’t currently funding trials like these, so all the money must come from foundations, individuals and corporations. This is in every person’s best interest. From a charitable giving point of view, it is the highest leverage donation you can make, perhaps in your lifetime. It may even save your life.

Why would I give through you when I could give directly?

We all want a fast solution, and our Scientific Advisory Board of world-class experts has already vetted proposals from top researchers to identify the most promising opportunities. Funding CETF will be the simplest and most efficient way to speed the process to get to an effective treatment. We are the only fund that is 100% focused on outpatient trials which is the shortest path to safely reopening the world.

How will donors be acknowledged?

Major donors will be acknowledged on the research papers reporting the clinical trial results. We’ll also list all donors on this site. See here for a list of major donors. Your friends will thank you, too. We are open to other suggestions you have if you’re interested in being recognized for your support in additional ways.

If this is such a problem, why isn’t NIH or Dr. Fauci focused on it?

They are fighting fires. Many people who take the time to ask any infectious disease expert very quickly get confirmation of our approach. The scientists on our SAB are leaders in their respective fields and would never have consented to participate if this wasn’t such an urgent priority. Read what top experts are saying about our approach here.

Why aren’t state governors funding this?

State governments don’t respond for many reasons including:

  1. They are running serious deficits and can’t risk investing in areas without guaranteed results.
  2. They think the federal government should fund this.
  3. They are spending all their time on testing, PPE, hospital capacity, school safety, and modifying state safety guidelines.
  4. They don’t have a chief medical officer (CMO) to do the vetting.
  5. They don’t fund medical research.
  6. They don’t have time to read the detailed scientific proposals.

Why aren’t universities funding this?

Universities don’t have the funds internally; if a researcher doesn’t have funding for their project it will not be approved. University researchers aren’t allowed to use NIH funds on COVID-19 without NIH approval and that’s very hard to obtain. Everyone has to apply, and it will take months or years to review all the applications.

Why isn’t NIH funding this?

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has put out a circular instructing federal agencies to show maximum flexibility in repurposing current grants to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. NIH put out guidance in this regard long before OMB, but researchers aren’t taking a chance. We’ve never heard of NIH allowing a researcher to repurpose grant funds, so people stop applying.

Will a vaccine make this obsolete?

No. Even once a vaccine is found, it may only be effective in 50-70% of people, and not everyone will be willing to take it. There will also be others for whom a vaccine is contraindicated. Simply put, even with a vaccine we will need treatment. It’s important not to rely solely on a vaccine but keep all options open. We have much better vaccine technology now than we’ve had in the past, so there is room for optimism, but it could realistically take over a year to develop and massively deploy a vaccine. Since most pre-existing drugs are already being manufactured, they face much less of a barrier to large-scale manufacturing.

Why are drugs currently only being tested on hospitalized patients?

Many medical centers are more familiar with running clinical trials on inpatients than outpatients. It's easier to identify and recruit participants to a trial when they are in your hospital, as opposed to sitting at home in isolation. Unfortunately, once someone is hospitalized, antiviral medicines are much less effective. It's also easier to get FDA approval to run inpatient trials on hospitalized patients that are near death with no alternative treatment options. They are considered more urgent, even though outpatient trials could prevent people from being hospitalized in the first place.

What is the single most important thing to remember?

Do not underestimate the difficulty in treating this virus. The coronavirus is by far the most challenging pathogen we have faced in decades. We need to throw everything we have at this virus. And we know treating early is key to lowering fatalities and hospitalizations. Simply waiting for a vaccine is not enough.

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