Speaking at the Financial Times’ annual U.S. Pharma and Biotech Summit on September 30, Amgen Chairman and CEO Bob Bradway lauded industry efforts to develop new vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 infection and expressed optimism that biopharmaceutical innovation will ultimately defeat the pandemic.
“The world now recognizes that we need innovation to get out from under the crush of this pandemic,” he noted. “It will take innovative vaccines and antivirals, as well as other innovative approaches, to allow us to prevent infection and manage the harm caused by the virus.”
Bradway spoke with Financial Times U.S. pharmaceutical correspondent Hannah Kuchler during a “fireside chat” session entitled “Navigating COVID-19 and Preparing for a Post-COVID World.”
Bradway noted that the scale and speed of efforts to tackle COVID-19 are “unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years of observing and leading in this industry. The number of companies and other institutions across the healthcare system working together to break the back of this urgent public health crisis has been astounding.”
“I’m optimistic that data will be available soon to validate the approach embedded in several ongoing vaccine trials,” Bradway stated, adding that research on neutralizing antibodies and on the immunology of COVID-19 infection increases the likelihood that “we will be able to reduce the numbers of people who become seriously ill and who succumb” due to coronavirus infection.
Bradway noted that “lots of creative work is being done by providers, payors, innovators, and the whole healthcare ecosystem to ensure that in tackling COVID-19 we don’t open the door to a secondary healthcare epidemic resulting from chronic diseases not being well managed.”
Although Bradway declined to speculate about when regulators might approve new interventions for preventing or treating COVID-19, he noted that innovators are continuing to generate clinical data and that “we should know very soon whether there are some medicines – including vaccines or other therapeutic approaches—that can help us break the back of this pandemic.”
Asked about the short-term impact of COVID-19 on the biopharmaceutical industry, Bradway observed that industry supply chains have held up well, that essential medicines have remained available, and that Amgen in particular “has remained in the fortunate position of continuing to supply every patient, every time.”
He added that in the United States, the biopharmaceutical industry has recovered some 90 percent of the volume of medicines supplied in January and February of this year, just before the pandemic struck in full force.
Asked how the pandemic might permanently affect healthcare systems, Bradway predicted that many patients will continue to rely on “telemedicine” and other virtual means of engaging with healthcare providers and gaining access to needed medicines, but noted the need to ensure adequate reimbursement of these virtual mechanisms of providing care.
Bradway observed that Amgen’s deCODE genetics subsidiary is advancing understanding of the genetic composition of the new coronavirus, its epidemiology, and the duration of the antibody response that it provokes. He also noted that Amgen is collaborating with external partners on adaptive clinical trials studying whether existing anti-inflammatory medicines can modulate the immune response to COVID-19 infection, and on the development and manufacture of neutralizing antibodies against the disease.