Philanthropists making ‘crucial difference’ in coronavirus crisis

The scientific battle against COVID-19 is accelerating thanks to charitable donations, President Alice Gast writes in the Financial Times.

Philanthropic gifts can unlock multiple, sometimes radical, approaches as we race to understand coronavirus, she argues in the paper.

In a crisis, you need flexibility and lateral thinking. Philanthropists offer just that when every day of lab time matters,” she says.

Such gifts have helped Professor Robin Shattock as he develops a vaccine: “Professor Shattock spent days of precious lab time applying, lobbying and cajoling for funding to move his vaccine forward. Fortunately, donors stepped up to bridge the funding gap before the UK government contributed a further £22.5m last month to take the vaccine through phase II trials.”

More than £4 million of philanthropic support is helping advance this work. “Even now, with this significant government investment, philanthropists can make a crucial difference. If Prof Shattock’s team can run parallel trials overseas, they will get faster results, receive swifter approval from regulators and be able to expand manufacturing worldwide.”

Hundreds of supporters of Imperial’s COVID-19 Response Fund are “enabling rapid, rolling distribution of grants to high-potential research, including a low-cost open source ventilator and a lab-free coronavirus test that produces results in about an hour.”

Community Jameel: global impact

Professor Gast highlighted the contributions the global philanthropy Community Jameel which founded J-IDEA, the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute of Disease and Emergency Analytics, led by Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the world’s most influential epidemiologists.

Professor Gast wrote: “A few months ago, the night before we launched the Jameel Institute for Emergency and Disease Analytics (J-IDEA) at Imperial’s School of Public Health, leaders of another academic group supported by Community Jameel, this one in Massachusetts — the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, J-PAL, at MIT — were announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize in economics. It was appropriate recognition of the impact that J-PAL had already had on reducing poverty for millions of people around the world. It was also a fitting tribute to Mohammed Jameel, a philanthropist who supports academic projects that could not otherwise have thrived any other way.”

The full opinion piece can be read in today’s Financial Times.

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