Episode 21 · Published Apr 23, 2020
Our thinking is, how do we create a protease inhibitor that could work on future coronaviruses, not just the current coronavirus?...Fundamentally, our ability to withstand pandemics is likely going to center around our ability to think of this more as a defense topic than a health topic.
As CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, Vas Narasimhan knows what a unique moment in history this is. That’s why he’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development to attack COVID-19 from a variety of angles. Among these are protease inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, and “glue degraders” that help dissolve critical proteins in the virus.
As one of the world’s largest producers of hydroxychloroquine, they are also watching ongoing testing of that antimalarial drug. If the tests show it to be safe and effective, Novartis is ready to donate 130 million doses to start, and more if needed. For a company that last year produced more than 72 billion doses of medicine for nearly 800 million patients, ramping up to a global scale is a challenge Narasimhan and his company are eager to accept.