Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Chinese authorities have identified a cluster of novel corona virus 2019-nCoV infections in Wuhan City, China. Cases have now been detected in several countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The disease has already spread to 19 countries outside China, with new cases continuing to emerge daily.
On 30 January 2020, European Commission launched a special call for expressions of interest to support research on COVID-19 with an initial budget of €10 million mobilised from the special fund for emergency research of the Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. The Commission received 91 proposals within the very short two-week deadline. Independent experts completed the evaluation of the proposals in record time. In parallel, thanks to the excellent quality of proposals received, the Commission mobilised additional funds in order to support a higher number of projects. Applicants were notified on 4 March.
Furthermore, up to €45 million in Horizon 2020 funding will support additional research through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the Commission and the pharmaceutical industry. A commitment of a similar scale is expected from the pharmaceutical industry so that the total investment in the fast-track call launched on 3 March could reach up to €90 million. This means that the total amount in funding for coronavirus research, mobilised from Horizon 2020 and the industry through IMI, could reach almost €140 million.
Several EU-funded projects are already contributing to preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the European Virus Archive - GLOBAL (EVAg), the PREPARE project and the Commission involvement in the Global research collaboration for infectious disease preparedness (GloPID-R) network.
The Commission is currently negotiating grant agreements with the selected beneficiaries. The 17 projects will work on:
- Development of new vaccines. The research will focus on developing a prophylactic vaccine and a therapeutic vaccine, which will be used for prevention and treatment respectively.
- Rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests. Increased efforts will concentrate on enabling front-line health workers to make the diagnosis more quickly and more accurately, which will in turn reduce the risk of further spread of the virus.
- New treatments, in which a dual approach will be adopted. Firstly, accelerating the development of new treatments currently in the pipeline (including therapeutic peptides, monoclonal antibodies and broad-spectrum antivirals), and secondly, screening and identifying molecules that could work against the virus, using advanced modelling and computing techniques.
- Improving epidemiology and public health, including our preparedness and response to outbreaks. These projects will help develop better monitoring systems in order to effectively prevent and control the spread of the virus, as well as contribute to the assessment of social dynamics.
Impact on H2020 and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA):
- The European Commission understands that the current containment measures taken at national level may have consequences on MSCA projects.
- This may concern the regular mobility activities of MSCA fellows and other project staff as well as the participation of individuals in meetings and events organised by beneficiaries in the framework of MSCA projects.
- To respond to these uncertainties, the European Commission is applying the maximum flexibility in the implementation of the programme, within the limits of the applicable legal framework.
- The Research Executive Agency (REA) has informed all project coordinators about the possibility to invoke the “force majeure” clauses: REA will assess the circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
- Project coordinators should liaise with their Project Officer as soon as possible to notify them of the situation and receive support.
- The Commission is monitoring this situation very closely and will adopt any additional measure that may become necessary.
- Horizon 2020 calls with original deadlines between now and 15 April, extensions will be applied. The precise new deadlines for each call and topic will be published on the call and topic pages on the Funding and Tenders Portal.