The European Commission announced on Tuesday (12 May) that eight research projects aimed at developing treatments and diagnostics for the coronavirus have been selected for funding in a fast-track call for proposals.
The call was launched in March by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership designed between the Commission and the pharmaceutical industry, represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).
The partnership aims to improve health by speeding up the development of innovative medicines, particularly in areas where there is an unmet medical or social need, as well as improving patient access.
Of the eight projects, five focus on the diagnosis of COVID-19 and three on treatment.
The diagnostics projects hope to develop devices that can be used anywhere, including at home, and which are able to deliver results in a matter of minutes.
These projects involve researchers from 94 organisations across Europe, including universities, research organisations, companies, and public bodies.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for over 20% of the participants and 17% of the budget.
Pierre Meulien, IMI executive director, said that the “success of IMI’s Call for proposals shows that as a public-private partnership, we are well placed to rapidly mobilise top people from diverse organisations to tackle emerging threats to public health.”
He added that he is “confident that these new projects will make valuable contributions to the wider global effort to tackle the current and future outbreaks”.
While the treatment projects focus primarily on the current COVID-19 outbreak, they also include efforts to prepare for future coronavirus outbreaks.
In order to fund a larger number of high-quality proposals, the Commission increased its commitment to €72 million – up from the original €45 million – from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme.
A further €45 million will also be provided by the pharmaceutical industry, IMI associated partners and other organisations involved with the projects, bringing the total investment to €117 million.
EU innovation and research chief Mariya Gabriel said that we need to “bring together the expertise and resources of the public and the private sector in order to defeat this pandemic and prepare for any future outbreaks.”
“With this funding from Horizon 2020 and our industry and other partners, we are speeding up the development of coronavirus diagnostics and treatments, essential tools that we need to tackle the global emergency,” the Commissioner added.
[Edited by Sam Morgan]