The European Commission is proposing an EU strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19, where research and innovation can contribute greatly. The EU Strategy for COVID-19 vaccines lays down how the EU and Member States together will accelerate the development and manufacturing of vaccines against COVID-19.
The strategy rests on two pillars: providing financial support to de-risk developers’ investments and adapting the regulatory framework to the current urgency.
- In the domain of Research and Innovation, the European Union reacted immediately to the COVID-19 outbreak with several rapid actions. It has pledged to invest €1 billion from Horizon 2020, the EU programme for research and innovation (2014-2020), under the Coronavirus Global Response initiative, of which at least €350 million are to support coronavirus vaccine development. These actions include:
- Amongst 18 new research and innovation projects funded within weeks of the outbreak through a special emergency call for expressions of interest (total €48.2 million), 2 projects focused on developing safe and effective vaccines: OPENCORONA and Prevent-nCoV.
- A second expression of interest for research and innovation actions was launched end April with some 450 proposals received in response, of which many deal with vaccine manufacturing technologies and public health vaccination strategies.
- The European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilotinvested €148 million in 36 companies, highlighting 2 vaccine projects; the RapCo-19 Rapid COVID-19 Passive Therapy Response Platform and the OSIVAX multi-season influenza vaccine.
- Boosting of EIB financial instruments with an additional €400 million of Horizon 2020 funding dedicated exclusively to combatting COVID-19. This funding aims to counter the risks to companies inherent in the high-stakes endeavour of coronavirus vaccine development. Two EU-backed, large EIB funding agreements to promising European biotech firms were announced:
- On 11 June, the EIB concluded a €100 million debt financing agreement with BioNTech to support the development of BNT162, the company’s COVID-19 vaccine programme. BioNTech became the first EU company to begin clinical testing.
- On 16 March 2020, the EIB Board approved a €75 million debt financing agreement with CureVac, ahighly innovative European vaccine developer, to scale up development and production of a vaccine against the coronavirus.