The Commission is mobilizing €123 million from Horizon Europe, the new EU research and innovation programme, for urgent research into coronavirus variants. This first emergency funding under Horizon Europe adds to a range of EU-funded research and innovation actions to fight the coronavirus and contributes to the Commission's overall action to prevent, mitigate and respond to the impact of coronavirus variants, in line with the new European bio-defence preparedness plan HERA Incubator.
Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “We continue to mobilise all means at our disposal to fight this pandemic and the challenges presented by coronavirus variants. We must use our combined strength to be prepared for the future, starting from the early detection of the variants to the organisation and coordination of clinical trials for new vaccines and treatments, while ensuring correct data collection and sharing at all stages.”
New calls for urgent research into coronavirus variants
The Commission launched new calls that complement earlier actions to develop treatments and vaccines by organising and conducting clinical trials to advance the development of promising therapeutics and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. They will support the development of large scale, COVID-19 cohorts and networks beyond Europe's borders, forging links with European initiatives, as well as reinforce the infrastructures needed to share data, expertise, research resources and expert services among researchers and research organizations.
The projects funded are expected to:
- Establish new and/or build on existing large-scale, multi-centre and regional or multinational cohorts, including beyond Europe's borders, which should rapidly advance the knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 and its emerging variants.
- Further develop promising therapeutic or vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, having already completed preclinical development in clinical studies.
- Support research infrastructures to speed up data sharing and deliver fast research support and expertise, to confront the coronavirus variants and to be ready for future epidemics.
The successful consortia are expected to collaborate with other relevant initiatives and projects at national, regional, and international level to maximise synergies and complementarity and avoid duplication of the research efforts.
These emergency calls will tackle the short to medium-term threat and simultaneously prepare for the future. They will contribute to building the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will enable the EU to anticipate and better tackle future pandemics.
The calls will open for submissions on 13 April and the deadline for submission is 6 May 2021. The new solutions need to be available and affordable for all, in line with the principles of the Coronavirus Global Response.
In February 2021, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the start of a European bio-defence preparedness plan HERA Incubator aimed at preparing Europe for an increased threat of coronavirus variants. The HERA Incubator will bring together science, industry and public authorities, and leverage all available resources to enable Europe to respond to this challenge.
Since the beginning of the crisis, but also since much earlier, the Commission has been at the forefront of supporting research and innovation and coordinating European and global research efforts, including preparedness for pandemics. It has pledged €1.4 billion to the Coronavirus Global Response, of which €1bn comes from Horizon 2020, the previous EU research and innovation programme.
The new special calls announced today under Horizon Europe, the successor of Horizon 2020, complement these earlier actions to fight the coronavirus: support for 18 projects with €48.2 million to develop diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and preparedness for epidemics; 8 projects with €117m invested on the development of diagnostics and treatments through the Innovative Medicines Initiative; 24 projects with €133.4m granted to addressing pressing needs and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic; and other measures to support innovative ideas through the European Innovation Council. The calls implemented action 3 of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, a working document resulting from dialogues between the Commission services and national institutions.
Horizon Europe calls:
- FAIR and open data sharing in support to European preparedness for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases
- Research infrastructure services for rapid research responses to COVID-19 and other infectious disease epidemics
- Vaccines & therapeutic clinical trials to boost COVID-19 prevention and treatment
- Cohorts united against COVID-19 variants of concern
Press release: Coronavirus: preparing Europe for the increased threat of variants
Questions and Answers: The Coronavirus Global Response
Factsheet: The Coronavirus Global Response
Press release: Coronavirus Global Response: €7.4bn raised for universal access to vaccines
EU has not yet ordered more AstraZeneca vaccines, says internal market commissioner
The European Union has not yet made any new orders for AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccines beyond June when their contract ends, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton (pictured) said on Sunday (9 May).
The Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.
"We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens," said Breton, adding that it was "a very good vaccine".
Concerns has risen on potential side-effects of the Anglo-Swedish COVID-19 vaccine.
Europe's medicines regulator said on Friday it is reviewing reports of a rare nerve-degenerating disorder in people who received the shots, a move that comes after it found the vaccine may have caused very rare blood clotting cases. Read more.
Breton said an increase in prices for second generation vaccines could be justified by the extra research required and potential changes to industrial equipment.
The European Union signed a new contract with Pfizer-Biontech to receive 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses, the European Commission said on Friday (7 May). Read more.
“There may be a little extra cost but I will let the competent authorities unveil it in due course,” he told France Inter radio.
Hoping to lure back tourists, Greece reopens beaches after lockdown
With widely spaced sun loungers and regular disinfections, Greece reopened its organised beaches on Saturday as the popular Mediterranean holiday destination eases COVID-19 curbs in preparation for the return of foreign visitors this week.
Tourism accounts for about a fifth of Greece's economy and jobs, and - after the worst year on record for the industry last year - the country can ill afford another lost summer. Read more
"We're pinning our hopes on tourism," said Nikos Venieris, who manages a sandy beach in the seafront suburb of Alimos, just outside the capital, Athens, where social distancing measures will remain in place.
"We're one of the places along the Athens riviera ... that receives many tourists so the number of visitors from abroad will play a big role in our finances," he added.
Under current measures, beach managers like Venieris will have to place umbrellas at least four metres (13 feet), carry out regular disinfections and test beach bar employees and other staff for COVID-19.
Greece fared well in keeping the first wave of the pandemic under control last year but a resurgence in cases pushed health services to the limit and prompted authorities to impose a second lockdown in November.
As infections have fallen and vaccinations gathered pace, authorities have steadily eased restrictions, opening bars and restaurants earlier this week.
On Friday, they announced that museums would reopen next week before the lifting of travel restrictions on vaccinated foreign visitors on May 15.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said a combination of widespread testing, immunisation, and the fact that many activities would take place outdoors gave authorities confidence that tourists would be able to visit safely.
For Greek beach lovers, Saturday's reopening of the country's largest beaches was a chance to let off steam after months of lockdown.
"We've been longing for this for six months now, because we're winter swimmers and we've really missed it," said Spiros Linardos, a pensioner, reclining on a sun lounger at Alimos.
EU calls on US and others to export their vaccines
The European Commission called on Friday (7 May) on the United States and other major COVID-19 vaccine producers to export what they make as the European Union does, rather than talk about waiving intellectual property rights to the shots.
Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference on the sidelines of a summit of EU leaders that discussions on the waiver would not produce a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the short- to medium-term.
"We should be open to lead this discussion. But when we lead this discussion, there needs to be a 360 degree view on it because we need vaccines now for the whole world," she said.
"The European Union is the only continental or democratic region of this world that is exporting at large scale," von der Leyen said.
She said about 50% of European-produced coronavirus vaccine is exported to almost 90 countries, including those in the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program.
"And we invite all those who engage in the debate of a waiver for IP rights also to join us to commit to be willing to export a large share of what is being produced in that region," she said.
Only higher production, removing exports barriers and the sharing of already-ordered vaccines could immediately help fight the pandemic quickly, she said.
"So what is necessary in the short term and the medium term: First of all vaccine sharing. Secondly export of vaccines that are being produced. And the third is investment in the increasing of the capacity to manufacture vaccines."
Von der Leyen said the European Union had started its vaccine sharing mechanism, citing delivery of 615,000 doses to the Western Balkans as an example.
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