Four collaborative research projects have been shortlisted for funding, involving 52 research institutes and small companies from 18 European countries, plus three international partners from Israel, China, the US.
Influenza virus genes migrate across continents and between species. Two consortia will carry out research on flu in pigs, while the two others will develop drugs against flu in humans.
The award of these grants brings the EU’s support for research on influenza to over €100 million since 2001.
The Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said seasonal flu alone can kill 250,000 - 500,000 people worldwide every year. “EU-funded research projects like these can help save lives. What is more, successful EU research in preventing and treating flu and other diseases has enormous social and economic value and can contribute significantly to our Europe 2020 goals.”
The €18 million call for proposals for new research projects on influenza was launched in July 2009, and 17 proposals were submitted.
The projects that have received funding are:
ESNIP 3 - European surveillance network for influenza in pigs 3, which will maintain and expand the surveillance network for flu in pigs established during the previous EU funded projects ESNIP 1 and ESNIP 2. These represent the only organised surveillance network of this kind. The project is expected to contribute to improved pandemic preparedness and planning for human influenza and provide an evidence base for decisions in relation to veterinary health. The project is funded with €1 million over three years, is coordinated by Ian Brown, of the Veterinarian Laboratories Agency in the UK and involves 25 partners in 15 countries.
FLUPIG - which will study the pathogenesis and transmission of flu in pigs, to understand the nature of the genetic changes that are required for (a) efficient replication of an avian virus in pigs, (b) efficient transmission of avian viruses between pigs and (c) virus transmission from pigs to humans and between humans. This four year project has funding of €5 million and will be coordinated by Kristien van Reeth, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, with support from ten partners in eight countries, including Hong Kong, China, and the US.
FLU-PHARM - will develop new drugs that inhibit viral replication in infected cells, targeting particular proteins on the virus. Such drugs are expected to have a reduced risk of patients developing resistance to them and less undesirable side-effects. The three and half year project will receive €6 million from the EU. It will be coordinated by Stephen Cusack, of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, working with 14 Partners from seven countries.
FLUCURE - Development of antiviral drugs against flu, will targets the virus’s replication machinery, aiming to develop new drugs with reduced risk of resistance. The objective is to deliver one or more drug candidates suitable for entering clinical development within the four years of the project. The EU is putting €6 million into FLUCURE, which will be overseen by Heather Marshall-Heyman at VIRONOVA AB in Sweden, working with nine partners from countries in Europe.