European Union invests €45 million into research to combat the Zika disease
Brussels, 21 October 2016
The European Union, through the Horizon 2020 programme, is investing €45 million in research to combat the outbreak of the Zika virus disease and other emerging infections transmitted by mosquitoes. The significant funding from the EU's research and innovation programme will support research on treatments, diagnostics and vaccines, as well as better risk assessment for Zika.
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "This funding will be a major boost to the international effort to stop the outbreak of the Zika virus disease and protect new-borns as well as adults. Such outbreaks appear suddenly and know no borders. This research is an example of how we can mobilise funding quickly to face major new threats, and how we can lead a major research effort on a global scale."
The majority of the funding, €30 million, will go to three research consortia: ZikaPLAN (€11 million), coordinated by the Umeå University in Sweden, ZIKAction (€7 million), coordinated by the PENTA Foundation in Italy, and ZikAlliance (€12 million), coordinated by INSERM in France. Researchers from Europe, Brazil, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean will collaborate in the consortia to fill the knowledge gaps on Zika infection and its consequences for pregnant women, new-born babies and adults, and they will also develop improved diagnostic tests and investigate options for treatment and prevention.
The consortia will work together to set up a Latin American and Caribbean network for emerging infectious diseases preparedness and response, aiming to support a coherent research response to outbreaks of Zika and other emerging infectious diseases. The strong involvement of researchers from Brazil and other affected countries reflects the need for a wide international effort in order to combat these infections, and builds on their close collaboration with the EU in a broad number of fields.
An additional €5 million in Horizon 2020 funding will support the ZIKAVAX consortium that aims to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the infection. A further €10 million will go to the INFRAVEC2 project, coordinated by Institut Pasteur, which will enhance and provide access to facilities for much needed research into insects that transmit infectious diseases.
The first two grants are expected to be signed next week, and preparation of the three remaining is nearly completed.
The Zika virus disease is a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile disease. While infection often leads to mild symptoms including fever and skin rash, there is now scientific consensus that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
According to WHO, as of 20 October 2016, 23 countries or territories have reported microcephaly and other central nervous system malformations in new-borns potentially associated with the Zika virus infection.
Zika-dedicated research funding is being closely coordinated with other major funders through the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R).