Real-Time PCR equipment being prepared to be sent to countries around the world to help fight COVID-19. IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories, Austria, 3 April 2020. (Photo Credit: IAEA)Biopharmaceutical leader Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited has committed to donating JPY500 million (around $4.67 million) in support of a global initiative launched by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help countries combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

This financial contribution will enable the IAEA to increase its emergency assistance to member states, which need quick and reliable diagnostic methods to contain the virus causing the potentially deadly disease, the agency said on 13 March.

The donation is one of the largest ever private sector donations to the IAEA, which announced in early March it would provide testing and biosafety equipment to countries requesting it, as well as expert advice and technical guidance.

So far, 119 countries have sought the IAEA’s assistance in using a nuclear-derived technique known as real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (real time RT-PCR), which makes it possible to identify the virus accurately within hours. Sixteen countries have received ready-to-run packages – including RT-PCR machines, personal protective equipment, laboratory consumables and diagnostic kits – and many more will get them in the coming days and weeks.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said Takeda’s contribution would allow the IAEA to significantly ramp up its activities in helping the world control the pandemic and dispatch more testing kits to countries in need. It adds to the more than €22 million ($23.8m) in extrabudgetary funding that over ten member states have already pledged for the IAEA’s Covid-19 assistance. It is the IAEA’s largest technical cooperation project – both in terms of the amount of funding and the number of beneficiary countries – since the agency was founded in 1957.

Building partnerships with the private sector is a key priority for the IAEA as it strives to meet growing member state demand for its work in support of peace and development around the world, Grossi said.

“The IAEA’s technical assistance plays a vital role in countries’ efforts to fight this disease. We can only implement such a large project thanks to generous extrabudgetary and other voluntary contributions,” he said. “The funds we receive from Takeda and our other partners will help save many lives around the world.”

Takeda, founded in 1781 in Japan, is a global, values-based, and R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader with a presence in approximately 80 countries and regions.

The IAEA is part of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Team, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and comprised of 14 United Nations entities.

The IAEA’s assistance is delivered through its technical cooperation programme, which supports the peaceful application of nuclear science and technology in areas such as human and animal health. In partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA has helped countries with quick detection tests to fight epidemics caused by the animal to human diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola and Zika, also known as zoonotic diseases.

Photo: Real-Time PCR equipment being prepared to be sent to countries around the world to help fight COVID-19. IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories, Austria, 3 April 2020. (Photo Credit: IAEA)