April 29, 2020
Scientists to Stop COVID-19 is a group of top U.S. scientists, industry leaders and billionaires who have come together to examine unorthodox potential cures from around the world. The group is led by venture capitalist Tom Cahill, a 33-year-old physician whose connections to the Trump administration helps the group act as a go-between it and pharmaceutical companies. Scientists to Stop COVID-19 describes itself as a modern-day Manhattan Project, the World War II group of scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the members of group include “chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist and a nuclear scientist.” Nobel Prize-winning biologist Michael Rosbash, central to the project, calls himself “the least qualified” of its members.
The group — which does not stand to gain financially from the project — has compiled a 17-page report that includes such unorthodox methods as “treating patients with powerful drugs previously used against Ebola, with far heftier dosages than have been tried in the past.” It has also recommended ideas that the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs have implemented, “such as slashing manufacturing regulations and requirements for specific coronavirus drugs.”
According to sources and documents reviewed by WSJ, “National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told people this month that he agreed with most of the recommendations in the report,” which was also delivered to “cabinet members and Vice President Mike Pence, head of the administration’s coronavirus task force.”
Cahill was inspired to start the group in March as the toll from the virus began to mount. “Science and medicine were the furthest things removed from everything happening,” he said. His investors were also asking him questions, so he organized a conference call to share ideas. To his surprise, the call reached capacity. The members are “motivated by the chance to add their own connections and levelheaded science” to the battle.
“We may fail,” said Harvard University chemist Stuart Schreiber. “But if it succeeds, it could change the world.”
Boston Celtics co-owner/Bain Capital co-chair Steve Pagliuca “helped copy edit drafts of their report … [and] passed a version to Goldman Sachs Group chief executive David Solomon … [who] got it to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Cahill has “largely dropped his investing work to focus on a hunt for a cure.”
WSJ notes that, “the group’s members say they are aware that many of their ideas may not be implemented and could be ignored altogether by the Trump administration.” But, as group member Michael Milken put it, “for the 50 years I’ve been involved in medical research I have never seen collaboration as we have today.”