EU to set up BARDA-style biomedical research agency in 2021

20 Oct 2020 | News

The European Commission has put forward a calendar of policy initiatives for 2021, putting flesh on the proposal to set up a biomedical research modelled on the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority

Ursula Von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: European Commission.

A legislative proposal to establish a European biomedical R&D agency modelled by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), will be tabled in the fourth quarter of 2021, the European Commission announced on Monday.

The commission is setting up the agency after coming under criticism for falling short in matching the US support for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics development.

The EU has also been criticised for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, with member states coming up with uncoordinated rules and strategies. In 2021, the commission plans to reinforce its framework for responding to cross-border health threats and implement a new pharmaceutical strategy providing equitable access to medicines for all member states.

The biomedical R&D agency will help to achieve that goal.  As yet, there are no details on the funding or governance of the EU BARDA.

The announcement is part of a broader work programme setting the policy priorities for the next year. The programme is focused on driving economic recovery through investments in green and digital technologies. Research and innovation will play a role across the whole picture.

“The European Commission will continue its efforts to secure a future vaccine for Europeans and to help our economies recover, through the green and digital transition,” said EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen. 

In addition to the EU answer to BARDA, the commission will publish a communication on a global approach to research and innovation, as part of a broader initiative by the EU to exert more influence and play a “vital role in this fragile world,” the commission said.

Also in 2021, the commission plans to complete the revision of state aid legislation to open up this stream of funding to research and innovation projects.  The rules will be updated “to reflect regulatory, technological and market developments”, the commission said.

For years, member states have complained the EU’s strict state aid rules prevent them from using EU structural funds to finance research and innovation projects. When the commission laid out a plan to help member states use these funds to finance research proposals that fell under Horizon 2020 thresholds, it was difficult to put in practice because of state aid rules.

The new state aid rules will be adopted in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the commission’s work programme.

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