Fast track H2020 projects to address COVID-19 shortlisted - 47,5 million euro available

13 Mar 2020 Brussels - The European Commission has updated the overview of European research initiatives and projects related to COVID-19. Seventeen research projects were shortlisted for funding. These projects are expected to advance our understanding of the novel coronavirus, contribute to more efficient clinical management of patients infected with the virus, and to the public health preparedness and response to the outbreak. Research teams are expected to share data rapidly so that results can immediately inform the public health response.

There are also several existing projects addressing the problem. The EC mentions for instance the PREPARE project, which supports the readiness of hospitals in Europe and enhances their understanding of the dynamics of the outbreak. This project has upgraded its response efforts to the epidemic to Outbreak Research Response Mode 3, the highest response mode. This means that PREPARE will immediately initiate and implement clinical research studies on COVID-19 across Europe.

On 3 March a special fast track call for research proposals was announced by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry through its association EFPI. Horizon 2020 will contribute up to euro 45 million to this call. A commitment of a similar scale is expected from the pharmaceutical industry so that the total investment could reach up to euro 90 million. The IMI call invites proposals for projects to develop treatments and diagnostics to better tackle the COVID-19 outbreak and to increase preparedness for potential future outbreaks.

The EXSCALATE platform – one of the outcomes of the EU funded project Antarex – is fully operational at the Italian Supercomputer in CINECA analysing COVID-19 proteins based on data available from the scientific community in order to accelerate the search of an effective therapy against the pandemic virus.

The applications of the HPC Centre of Excellence for Computational Biomolecular Research 'BioExcel' can be used for on-demand, large-scale virtual screening of potential medical compounds such as small molecule drugs, antibodies etc. The applicability depends on the specific case of pandemic cause.

The Commission says the access policy of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking foresees prioritised and immediate access to its supercomputers for emergency as is the case in pandemic crises. Of course we have to wait for a year before EuroHPC supercomputers are operational.

Ad Emmen