The European Commission (EC) received an additional €37.5 million for urgent work on COVID-19 vaccine development, treatment and diagnostics. This intervention forms part of the European Unions’ coordinated response to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) public health threat.
After the €10 million call was released in January, the Commission announced it is doubling the emergency call initiated to combat the COVID-19 outbreak to €47.5 million, with the additional amount from the Horizon 2020 programme.
COVID-19 vaccine development
This has facilitated the selection of 17 projects involving 136 research teams from across the EU and beyond. The teams will begin working on the research and production of vaccines, new treatments, clinical tests and medical devices to prevent the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread.
According to the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel:
“The emergency funding from Horizon 2020 enables researchers to work immediately to tackle the outbreak of the Coronavirus on several fronts. Seeing the research community getting in action so rapidly gives us new hope that we will soon be one step closer to our goal of stopping the spread of the virus.”
The EC COVID-19 research plan
Currently, the European Commission is negotiating grant agreements with the selected applicants. The 17 programmes are set to work on:
1. The development of new COVID-19 vaccines which will concentrate on developing a prophylactic vaccine and a therapeutic vaccine that will be used, respectively, for the prevention and treatment of the disease.
2. Rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests. Enhanced efforts will focus on allowing front-line health personnel to make the diagnosis faster and more reliably, which in turn is hoped to reduce the risk of further virus spread.
3. Novel treatments which follow a dual approach. First, speeding up the production of new medicines in the pipeline (including therapeutic peptides, monoclonal antibodies, and broad-spectrum antivirals). Secondly, monitoring and detection of molecules that might eliminate the virus, using sophisticated computer and modelling techniques.
4. Enhance epidemiology and public health, including the readiness for responding to epidemic outbreaks. Such initiatives will help develop improved monitoring systems, diagnostic research to effectively prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus and further contribute to the evaluation of social dynamics.
Background of the EC COVID-19 response
Within a very short two week timeframe, the Commission submitted 91 proposals. The review of these proposals was done in record time by independent experts. Alongside the Commission mobilised additional funds to support a greater number of projects thanks to the excellent quality of the proposals received. As of the 4th March, applicants have been notified. In addition, up to EUR 45 million in funding for Horizon 2020 will help more research through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private collaboration between the Commission and the pharmaceutical industry.
The pharma industry is expected to make a similar commitment so that the total investment in the fast-track call launched on March 3rd could reach up to €90 million.
It is estimated that the total amount of coronavirus research funding, mobilised via IMI from Horizon 2020 and the pharma industry, will reach nearly €140 million. Many EU-funded projects, such as the European Virus Archive – GLOBAL (EVAg), the PREPARE project and the Commission’s participation in the Global Research Collaboration on Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) network, are already contributing to COVID-19 preparedness and response.
Read more about who is developing a novel coronavirus vaccine.