A teleconference of world leaders and philanthropists has raised €7.4 billion to boost the search for a coronavirus vaccine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

The total falls just short of the event's target of €7.5 billion.

Ireland has committed €18 million to the fund.

Organisers of the donor event include the European Union, the UK and Norway, as well as Japan, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

But it does not involve the United States.

China, where the virus originated in December, is only represented by its ambassador to the EU.

Governments aim to raise funds over several weeks or months, building on efforts by the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wealthy individuals and turn the page on the fractious and haphazard initial response around the world.

"I believe the 4th of May will mark a turning point in our fight against coronavirus because today the world is coming together," Ms von der Leyen said at the start of the event, which she described as a "marathon", pledging €1bn from the EU.

The announcement of Ireland's contribution of  €18m was been made by the Taoiseach.

In a video message Leo Varadkar said: "The only way we can defeat a global threat is by working together on a multilateral basis. Ireland and the European Union are committed to doing exactly that.

"Working together we can develop an effective vaccine, effective treatments, testing systems that work, diagnostics and therapeutics. Ireland wants to play its part in this effort.

"Sooner or later we will defeat this virus. We will develop the vaccine that prevents it and the medicines that treat the disease. It is really important that nobody in the world is left out when that happens."

Today's announcement brings to €78m the total figure that Ireland has committed to combatting Covid-19.

This will support the work of multilateral institutions including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and will assist non-governmental organisations and bilateral partners, including Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and Ethiopia.

The pledging conference aims to close the €7.5bn funding gap identified by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board to rapidly develop solutions to test, treat and protect people against Covid-19.