Urgently needed research into coronavirus

by michael rogers

The European Commission is boosting urgently needed research into coronavirus with €10 million from its research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

It has launched an emergency request for expressions of interest for research projects that will advance our understanding of the novel coronavirus epidemic, contribute to more efficient clinical management of patients infected with the virus, as well as public health preparedness and response.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

We are working to mitigate the consequences of a potential larger spread of the Coronavirus outbreak in the EU. Thanks to emergency research funding from Horizon 2020, we will know more about the disease. I am proud that following the progress made during the last years, our supercomputer centres stand ready to help researchers in their work to develop new treatment and vaccines. We will be able to protect the public better, and to deal more effectively with the current and any future outbreaks.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said

We need to see a multifaceted, whole-of-government response to the Coronavirus and research is an essential part of this. We need to know more about the virus to better target our prevention measures and to ensure better care for our citizens – this is precisely the aim of the Horizon 2020 emergency research funding announced today.

The Commission has launched this action as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The disease continues to spread in China and beyond, with the first cases reported in Europe. The Commission is working closely with the WHO and other international actors to ensure a rapid, efficient and coordinated European and global response to the outbreak.

The funding is expected to support two to four research projects. The Commission is using all means at its disposal in order to enable research work to start as soon as possible. Applicants have until 12 February, i.e. only two weeks, to respond (compared to three months normally) and grant agreements should also be signed very quickly. Grants will be subject to rapid data-sharing clauses to ensure that authorities can apply research findings immediately in their response. This rapid action is made possible by a provision of Horizon 2020 for the "Mobilisation of research funds in case of public health emergencies".

Several EU-funded projects are already contributing to preparedness and response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak, for example:

  • The European Virus Archive - GLOBAL (EVAg) has already responded to some 200 requests from 55 countries to provide access to products needed for diagnosing coronavirus infection;
  • The PREPARE project, a wide network that supports the readiness of hospitals in Europe and helps better understand the dynamics of the outbreak;
  • The Commission is also working with other research funders through the “Global research collaboration for infectious disease preparedness” (GloPID-R) network, which coordinates research response and addresses priority research needs.
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