Importance of diagnostics

Diagnostic tests, especially point-of-care, are essential to enable front-line health workers to make the diagnosis quickly and accurately, as well as to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus.

The following is an overview of how the EU is already supporting the development of coronavirus diagnostic tests.

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Highlights

New projects

1st Horizon 2020 call for expression of interest (March 2020)

In January 2020, the Commission launched an emergency call, through which €48.2 million were awarded to 18 research projects. The projects, which involve 151 teams across Europe and beyond, have started working on improving epidemiology and public health, including preparedness and response to outbreaks, diagnostic tests, new treatments and new vaccines. Among these, 3 projects are receiving a total of €6.4 million to develop effective, rapid point-of-care diagnostics:

CoNVat

Combating 2019-nCoV: Advanced Nanobiosensing platforms for POC global diagnostics and surveillance. The project will develop a rapid point-of-care diagnosis and monitoring, and also monitor the evolution of viruses in animals and help prevent future outbreaks. Led by Fundacio Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ES).

CoronaDX

Three Rapid Diagnostic tests (Point-of-Care) for COVID-19 Coronavirus, improving epidemic preparedness, public health and socio-economic benefits, that can be used with minimal training. Led by Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DK).

HG nCoV19 test

Development and validation of rapid molecular diagnostic test for nCoV19, that does not require virus extraction chemistry, with a particular focus on early stage disease diagnosis. Led by Hibergene Diagnostics (IE).

Special Innovative Medicines Initiative call (May 2020)

On 3 March 2020, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) supported through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, launched a special fast-track call for the “Development of therapeutics and diagnostics combatting coronavirus infections” with an EU contribution of €45 million, which was subsequently increased to €72 million. On 12 May 2020, following the independent evaluation of proposals, it was announced that 8 projects were short-listed for funding, including on 5 projects receiving €28 million in EU grants to develop rapid diagnostics:

  • COVID-RED - COVID-19 infections: remote early detection. The project will combine expertise in clinical epidemiology with digital devices (such as wearables and mobile apps) to rapidly and reliably detect cases, so that patients can be prioritised for testing. Led by Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht (NL)
  • DECISION - A miniaturised disposable molecular diagnostics platform for combatting coronavirus infections. This low-cost, diagnostic system that will make it possible to test patients with laboratory quality performance almost anywhere in 15 minutes or less. Led by GNA Biosolutions (DE)
  • DRAGON - Rapid and secure AI imaging based diagnosis, stratification, follow-up, and preparedness for coronavirus pandemics.
    The project aims to deliver a decision support system for improved and more rapid diagnosis and prognosis. Citizens and patients will be involved in the development of the system. Led by Oncoradiomics (BE)
  • KRONO - Evaluation of a production ready portable, point-of-need platform, direct from nasal swab test for the molecular diagnostic detection of COVID-19 infection. The project aims to develop a simple test with results in just 40 minutes and create the capacity to rapidly deploying new tests in response to future outbreaks. Led by BG Research (UK).
  • RAPID-COVID - Robust automation and point of care identification of COVID for a diagnostic test that can simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2, as well as 30 other common respiratory bacteria and viruses, to ensure patients are quickly isolated and that all patients receive the right treatment. Led by GeneFirst (UK)

EIT health rapid response program (April 2020)

As part of its Rapid Response initiative in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, EIT-Health is supporting 15 short-term projects that focus on immediate and impactful solutions for a total of almost €7 million, with the participation of 41 partners. Among these, 8 projects are receiving €4.25 million to develop efficient and early diagnostic methods:

CoViproteHCt

The project aims to identify the true markers of protective immunity.  The research team will compare blood content of healthcare personnel who have tested positive for SARS CoV-2 with their health status over six months Led by Technische Universität München (DE).

FastRAi

FastRAi are looking to support over-burdened hospitals and radiologists dealing with COVID-19. They are developing an AI algorithm that can project x-rays onto CT images and build up data on the progression of lung disease. Led by Technische Universität München (DE).

NanoDx COVID-19

This project will provide a more sensitive means of diagnosing COVID-19. It combines innovations in two technologies: nanoporous silicon and an immuno protemic, or protein-based test, to help diagnose low concentrations of viral infection. Led by INSERM (FR).

PlasmonDetect

PlasmonDetect is developing a novel molecular diagnostic technology called “plasmonic strand-displacement amplification assay” for rapid detection of COVID-19. The process allows for fast and specific detection of viral RNA and could be valuable in on-site testing. Led by Technical University of Denmark (DK).

ProCop

The project aims to develop and validate a new blood-based score for COVID-19 to help determine the severity of a patient’s condition, their prognosis and their likelihood of developing a drug-induced-liver-injury due to COVID-19 medication. Led by Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (FR).

QwikZyme

The team is developing a diagnostic device to detect ultra-low concentrations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.  The testing should enable earlier diagnosis and can also be used on people without symptoms. Led by Imperial College London (UK).

SDx SARS-CoV-2

The test aims to detect the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2 virus before antibodies and symptoms occur.  Coupled with serological tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies, it could be leveraged by health authorities to develop strategies, minimising economic disruption. Led by University of Tartu (EE).

Certify.health

Certify.health is developing a COVID-19 status certificate – telling whether a person is infected, free of infection or immune. With this, it should be possible to trace contacts, validate diagnostic tests and confirm authorisations – with privacy protected. Led by Hospital Clinic de Barcelona (ES).

Other projects

European Virus Archive (EVA-Global)

The archive is a virtual collection for human, animal and plant viruses that provides researchers with the necessary material for diagnosing coronavirus infection. Since the start of the crisis EVA-Global has provided over 2200 samples of reference material to researchers in 80 countries. The EU has invested a total of €32.2 million (2009-2023) in this research infrastructure which is led by Université Aix-Marseilles (FR).

VALUE-Dx

Value of diagnostics to combat antimicrobial resistance by optimising antibiotic use. This IMI project, led by University Antwerp (BE), aims to transform medical practice by making it easier for doctors to deliver personalised, evidence-based antibiotic prescriptions thanks to the use of innovative diagnostic strategies. The IMI contribution to this project is €6.8 million (2019-2023).

Virus-X

Viral Metagenomics for Innovation value, the project exploits environmental metagenomes with a focus on viral genomes in specific ecosystems. Sequencing technology, bioinformatics solutions and specific products for biotechnical applications developed by the project partners can be applied to detection and research on coronavirus. The project, which is led by MATIS OHF (Iceland), received €8 million (2016-2020).

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