The Commission has mobilised another €122 million from its research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, for urgently needed research into the coronavirus. The new call for expressions of interest contributes to the Commission’s €1.4 billion pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response initiative, launched by President Ursula von der Leyen on 4 May 2020.
The new call is the latest addition to a range of EU-funded research and innovation actions to fight the coronavirus. It complements earlier actions to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines by strengthening capacity to manufacture and deploying readily available solutions in order to rapidly address the pressing needs. It will also improve understanding of the behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the epidemic.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We are mobilising all means at our disposal to fight this pandemic with testing, treatments and prevention. But to succeed against the coronavirus, we must also understand how it impacts our society and how to best deploy these interventions rapidly. We must explore technological solutions to manufacture medical equipment and supplies faster, to monitor and prevent the spread of the disease, and to better care for patients.”
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added: “We are supporting the health authorities, healthcare professionals and the general public in all Member States in tackling the coronavirus crisis. To this end, we are deploying innovative technologies and tools that can quickly be used to prevent, optimally treat, and recover from this pandemic and prepare for its aftermath. These include digital solutions and technologies such as telemedicine, data, AI, robotics, and photonics.”
The projects funded under this call should repurpose manufacturing for rapid production of vital medical supplies and equipment needed for testing, treatment and prevention, as well as develop medical technologies and digital tools to improve detection, surveillance and patients care. New research will learn from large groups of patients (cohorts) across Europe and better understanding of the behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus epidemic could help improve treatment and prevention strategies.
The deadline for submission is 11 June 2020, while the call will focus on delivering results quickly. Europe, and the world at large, urgently need innovative solutions to contain and mitigate the outbreak, and to better care for patients, survivors, vulnerable groups, frontline health care staff and their communities. This is why the Commission aims to enable research work to start as quickly as possible through shorter timelines for the preparation of expressions of interest and for their evaluation.
The new solutions need to be available and affordable for all, in line with the principles of the Coronavirus Global Response. For this purpose, the Commission will include rapid data-sharing clauses in grant agreements, resulting from this new call, to ensure that findings and outcomes can be put to use immediately.
This new special call under Horizon 2020 complements earlier actions to support 18 projects with €48.2 million to develop diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and preparedness for epidemics, as well as the €117 million invested in 8 projects on diagnostics and treatments through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, and measures to support innovative ideas through the European Innovation Council.
It implements Action 3 of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, a working document resulting from dialogues between the Commission services and national institutions.
The new call will cover five areas with the following indicative budgets:
Repurposing of manufacturing for vital medical supplies and equipment (€23 million) Medical technologies, Digital tools and Artificial Intelligence analytics to improve surveillance and care at high Technology Readiness Levels (€56 million) Behavioural, social and economic impacts of the outbreak responses (€20 million) Pan-European COVID-19 cohorts (€20 million) Collaboration of existing EU and international cohorts of relevance to COVID-19 (€3 million)
Cohort studies typically observe large groups of individuals, recording their exposure to certain risk factors to find clues as to the possible causes of disease. They can be prospective studies and gather data going forward, or retrospective cohort studies, which look at data already collected.