EU to invest €150m in Coronavirus Research

Gerry O'Sullivan

Posted: 22 February, 2021

The European Commission has launched of a European bio-defence preparedness programme called “HERA Incubator” to address the emerging threat of coronavirus variants. Plans include important new research investments, mobilising an additional €30 million from Horizon 2020 to be complemented by a further €120 million from Horizon Europe.

The new programme will provide the means to detect and counter further coronavirus mutations, and help ensure access to effective vaccines when a new virus or variant has emerged. Horizon 2020 funding will support the rapid establishment of a new EU-wide vaccine trial network called VACCELERATE  and boost capacities to track and analyse virus variants and to share data by reinforcing the European COVID-19 Data Platform and other existing research infrastructure projects and networks. Horizon Europe funding will complement this action by providing further support for open data sharing, cohorts studies and for vaccine trials.

Aside from the new research investment that will help address the imperative to detect, characterise and adapt to virus variants, the European bio defence preparedness programme will also aim to adapt existing Advance Purchase Agreements and/or conclude new ones; to speed up regulatory approval of vaccines, data packages and new or repurposed manufacturing infrastructures; and to support the production of existing, adapted or novel COVID-19 vaccines. The platform will serve as a first pilot for the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will put in place permanent structures for risk modelling, threat assessment and surveillance, hence the name “HERA Incubator”.

The European Union reacted immediately to the COVID-19 outbreak with several research and innovation actions, as early as January 2020. In all, it pledged to invest €1 billion from Horizon 2020, the EU programme for research and innovation (2014-2020), under the Coronavirus Global Response initiative. To date over €780 million has already been mobilised from this pledge, of which at least €350 million supports coronavirus vaccine development.

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