Commission activity in this field
For some years, the European Commission has invested heavily into research to prepare for this type of public health emergency, as well as setting up emergency research funding mechanisms.
Improving epidemiology and modelling helps develop better monitoring systems to effectively prevent and control the spread of the virus, as well as contribute to assessing social dynamics.
The Commission has also invested in developing clinical networks to ensure preparedness to deliver clinical research in response to outbreaks of infectious disease.
2nd Horizon 2020 call for expression of interest (August 2020)
In May 2020, the Commission launched a second emergency call, through which €128.2 million were awarded to 23 projects. In March 2021, a 24th project was added from the reserve list, bringing total funding to €133.4 million. The 24 research projects involve 354 teams from 39 countries across Europe and beyond.
Among these, 2 projects are receiving a total of €22.9 million for the creation of a new pan-European cohort. The cohort is built on existing and new large-scale population cohorts in European and non-European countries, comprising both infected and non-infected individuals. This will significantly improve responsiveness to SARS-CoV-2 and provide a model for responsiveness for new public health threats. It will also foster collaboration of existing EU and international cohorts of relevance to COVID-19.
Connecting European cohorts to increase common and effective response to SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Led by Università di Verona (IT)
Unravelling data for rapid evidence-based response to COVID-19. Led by Institute of Tropical Medicine - ITM (BE)
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 from across Europe and beyond, have started working on improving preparedness and response to outbreaks, rapid diagnostic tests, new treatments and new vaccines. Among these, 6 projects are receiving €19.1 million to improve Preparedness and Response:
Multidisciplinary European network for research, prevention and control of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The project aims to obtain epidemiological, clinical and virological information on coronavirus and infected patients through the I-MOVE surveillance network. Led by Epiconcept (FR).
- I-MOVE-COVID-19 website
- Project details
- Testimonial from Marta Valenciano (Epidemiologist at Epiconcept, Paris)
- Video: Smart Regions, I-Move against COVID-19
Rapid European COVID-19 Emergency research Response. The project will gather comprehensive data from clinical and epidemiological studies to strengthen Europe’s clinical research preparedness for future emerging infectious diseases. Led by Universiteit Antwerpen (BE)
Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems. The project aims to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the response to coronavirus outbreak by providing guidelines for improved crisis governance. Led by Svenska handelshögskolan (FI)
- HERoS website
- Project details
- Story: Lack of solidarity hampered Europe’s coronavirus response, research finds
Epidemic intelligence to minimize 2019-nCoV’s public health, economic and social impact in Europe. The project strives to understand epidemiological characteristics, social dynamics, public health preparedness and response, and assess economic impact. Led by Universiteit Hasselt (BE)
CORESMA - COVID-19
Outbreak Response combining E-health, Serolomics, Modelling, Artificial Intelligence and Implementation Research to help devise evidence-based response strategies. Led by Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (DE)
EXaSCale smArt pLatform Against paThogEns for Corona Virus. The project will exploit powerful computing resources to identify molecules capable of targeting coronavirus and develop an effective tool to counter future pandemics. Led by Dompé farmaceutici (IT).
In June 2020, the project identified an already registered generic drug used to treat osteoporosis, Raloxifene, that could be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients with mildly symptomatic infection and in October 2020 the company received approval for a clinical trial to test its effectiveness.
- EXSCALATE4CoV website
- Project details
- Story: Supercomputers versus coronavirus
- Story: Repurposing drugs and networks can help find outbreak treatments against the clock
- Story: Existing osteoporosis drug shows potential for treating COVID-19
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, 3 projects are receiving €1.363 million to address the issue of preparedness and response to the virus:
Covidom is a remote monitoring web application for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms of COVID-19. A regional control centre receives alerts generated from patient data and can then refer patients to consultation, hospitalisation or emergency services. Led by Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (FR).
Lung Simulator Training
During the pandemic, diagnostic methods that can be used to rapidly detect lung diseases are highly needed. The project provides an interactive web-based simulator to train medical personnel on how to perform lung ultrasonography. Led by Medical University of Lodz (PL).
Digital Control Centre
Via the Digital Control Centre, healthcare professionals will receive patient information from electronic health records that will enable them to independently identify the most seriously ill patients with COVID-19 that should be prioritised for specialist supervision. Led by Hospital Clinic de Barcelona (ES).
Recent and ongoing projects
The COllaborative Management Platform for detection and Analyses of (Re-)emerging and foodborne outbreaks in Europe (COMPARE) project was launched in 2014 to assess the potential of using next generation sequencing (NGS) data to survey, diagnose and detect disease outbreaks. Led by Technical University of Denmark, it received a €20.8 million EU grant (2014-19).
Led by INSERM (FR) the project involves 15 European countries, an international organization and a European NGO, 24 partners in all, working together to prepare the Environment, Climate and Health Research Agenda 2020-2030. HERA and its partners have now identified the research needs on the interlinkages of the COVID-19 pandemic with environment, climate and health, into a document entitled HERA-COVID-19.
This project received a €24 million EU grant in 2014. The project supports the readiness of hospitals in Europe and enhances their understanding of the dynamics of the outbreak.
Activities implemented by PREPARE are planned and conducted in close collaboration with partner networks and the European Commission, and in alignment with WHO and ECDC.
- PREPARE website
- Project details
- Story: How a trial that mirrors intensive care practices is pinpointing life-saving coronavirus treatments
- Story: ‘I don’t see any other way out’: Diagnostic testing and smartphone contact tracing to beat pandemic
- Story: COVID-19: the EU is ready to respond
- Story: How to carry out rapid clinical research in combatting COVID-19
The Global Social Sciences Network for Infectious Threats and Antimicrobial Resistance (SoNAR-Global) platform is intended to strengthen the active participation of the social sciences in the preparedness and response to infectious threats, including those posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and vaccine hesitancy. SoNAR-Global is addressing the current outbreak by providing social sciences resources and offering to support projects. This global initiative is led by Institut Pasteur (FR) and received a grant of € 2.9 million (2019-2021).
The Commission is working with other research funders through the Global research collaboration for infectious disease preparedness network (GLoPID-R) network. This network is mobilised to facilitate a rapid and effective response to this outbreak, through the coordination of research agenda and addressing priority research needs. The EU grant to support this network is €1.3 million.
This IMI project on Zoonotic anticipation and preparedness initiative is creating new platforms and technologies to facilitate a fast, coordinated, and practical response to new infectious diseases as soon as they emerge. The focus includes other coronaviruses, potentially allowing for transfer of technology and expertise for the current outbreak. Led by Merial (FR), it received a €9.5 million EU grant (2015-2021).
- ZAPI website
- Project details
- Story: Studying animal coronavirus defences is opening route to human treatments
The Versatile Emerging infectious disease Observatory (VEO) focusses on diagnostics and data mining, including the use of social media. Led by Erasmus University Medical Centre Rotterdam, it received a €15 million EU grant in January 2020.
- VEO website
- Project details
- Story: Q&A: We have to rethink disease detection to get ahead of the outbreak after coronavirus
This project on MOnitoring Outbreak events for Disease surveillance in a data science context (MOOD) focusses on data mining and providing epidemic modelling. Led by CIRAD in France, the MOOD project received €14 million EU grant in January 2020.
- MOOD website
- Project details
- Story: Covid-19, social distancing will help health authorities deal with coronavirus, says epidemiologist
- Story: Covid-19 variants: Five things to know about how coronavirus is evolving
Network Of practitioners For Emergency medicAl systems and cRitical care - brings together a pan-European network of emergency medical care practitioners, decision and policy makers, to collaborate and achieve a common understanding of needs, as well as increase the EU innovation potential, in collaboration with academia and industries, that could better fill operational gaps and recommend areas for future innovations.
The project recently hosted a webinar on response to the COVID-19 outbreak across four different countries – Italy, Spain, Israel and France – discussing differences in diagnosis, treatment, acute patient care and emergency response based on the experience of the practitioners involved first-hand in the crisis management and response planning.
Pandemic Risk and Emergency Management – explored the feasibility of strengthening capacity-building for health and security protection in case of large-scale pandemics. The project completed its work in 2017 by issuing a range of recommendations for research gaps to be addressed. It also proposed innovative concepts to better integrate the existing tools and systems for health and security protection in case of large-scale pandemics, taking into account potential impacts of climate change.
Based on these recommendations, a call on Demonstration of novel concepts for the management of pandemic crises was launched in 2019 to fund projects supporting cross-border emergency approaches and strengthening preparedness and response to pandemics, with an EU contribution of up to €10 million. The call is now closed and a project has been short listed for funding.