In response to the pandemic outbreak, the European Commission has mobilised over € 160 million to fund research and innovation calls. Being at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, projects comprising universities, including several members of The Guild, have been working on different aspects of the pandemic.
Disclosed in early March, the Horizon 2020 call has awarded 18 research projects addressing pandemic preparedness, and the diagnostics, treatment and vaccines related to Covid-19. Through the EpiPose project, the University of Bern is collecting and analysing epidemic intelligence to minimize the public health, economic and social impact of the virus in Europe, resulting in the enhanced preparedness of policymakers, scientists and the general public to deal with the pandemic. On the treatment front, Aarhus University is taking part in a consortium to accelerate the preclinical development of new antivirals for inhalation. The project, named Fight-nCoV, aims to evaluate the antiviral activity of candidate drugs. More specifically dedicated to the search for a vaccine, the Prevent-nCoV project, in which the University of Tübingen is a key partner, is performing pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of a potential vaccine with the aim of delivering a scalable solution.
At the same time, the University of Tübingen is combatting bacterial resistance, a growing problem across the globe, through the COMBACTE-NET project which is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a joint initiative by the European Union and the pharmaceutical industry. Also funded through IMI, project EHDEN, made up of 22 partners including the University of Tartu, aims to make the large-scale analysis of health data a reality. To do so, the consortium has built a data network that enables accessing data standardised to a common model, which is now being used to identify sites for clinical trials of potential coronavirus treatments. Likewise, helping the fight against Covid-19, the University of Bologna partakes in the Harmony project, whose objective is to mitigate the lack of data on cancer treatment’s relevant outcomes. The project has launched a coronavirus-specific call for data partners to join its sharing platform, informing decision making for policymakers and healthcare professionals.
The relevance of research infrastructures in tackling global challenges has been acknowledged by the European Commission through the attribution of grants to several projects. For example, University of Ljubljana is contributing to the EVA-GLOBAL, the European Virus Achieve created in 2008 which has transformed from a European to a global organisation in 2014. With a track record of controlling major virus outbreaks such as Zika, Ebola or Dengue, the network aims to improve the control of emerging epidemics on a global scale. Furthermore, Ghent University is partnering with 46 entities under the EOSC-Life project to facilitate the sharing of data and research outputs, and making analysis and computational power to investigate COVID-19 available to researchers.
With a strong innovation compound, the University of Tartu is leading the project SDx SARS-CoV-2. The project is among the 15 awarded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in the scope of EIT Health’s Rapid Response initiative and it will develop affordable, accessible and swift diagnostic tests to be used in large-scale testing for Covid-19. Being easy to use, this type of testing can play an important role in mitigating the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.
This article was first published on 30 June by The Guild.