The critical need for vaccines

The EU has embarked on the worldwide race to find safe and effective vaccines to counter the spread of the coronavirus. The overall focus is on developing a prophylactic vaccine and a therapeutic vaccine that will be used for prevention and treatment respectively.

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New projects

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, 2 projects, are receiving €5.7 million to develop safe and effective vaccines:

OPENCORONA

Rapid therapy development through Open Coronavirus Vaccine Platform. The project will use DNA vaccine technology to develop a vaccine that can also be used as a therapy against the virus. Led by Karolinska Institutet (SE)

Prevent-nCoV

Prevention of 2019 nCoV infection through development and clinical testing of a novel Virus Like Particle (VLP) vaccine to expose coronavirus proteins to the immune system. Led by Københavns Universitet (DK)

Commission offers financing to innovative vaccines company CureVac

€75 million in financing was offered to CureVac, an innovative vaccines company with a potential messenger RNA based vaccine for coronavirus. The funding comes from the European Investment Bank (EIB) working in collaboration with the European Commission, through the InnovFin financing mechanism, and will help accelerate development of a vaccine.

In 2014 CureVac received the first ever EU innovation inducement prize of €2 million.

Ongoing projects

DiViNe

Sustainable downstream processing of vaccines through incorporation of nanobiotechnologies: higher purity, faster and cheaper with novel affinity ligands and biomimetic membranes. Led by Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica – IBET (PT).

MycoSynVac

Engineering of Mycoplasma pneumoniae as a broad-spectrum animal vaccine. This project developed a new approach for designing multivalent vaccines. This strategy can be used against pathogens that cause pulmonary diseases and therefore opening avenues to fight the coronavirus epidemic. Led by Fundació Centre de Regulació Genòmica (ES).

Newcotiana: breeding new plant biofactories

The Newcotiana project uses genome editing and other new breeding techniques to adapt tobacco plants as biofactories for health-related bioproducts, such as vaccines, and antibodies. In response to CoVid19 outbreak, Newcotiana incorporates Coronavirus antigens and antibodies to the list of target products, aiming to provide new design solutions and new manufacturing capacities for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic reagents.

On 16 April, the Newcotiana consortium made its plant genome public to help fight coronavirus to help pre-empt production shortfalls of proteins needed for diagnostic reagents and vaccines.

Other initiatives

TRANSVAC2 supports a European vaccine research and development infrastructure that offers researchers a wide range of technical vaccine development services at no cost in most cases. Researchers developing vaccine candidates against COVID19 are encouraged to apply. The EU has invested €20.5 million in the TRANSVAC initiative since 2009.

Global cooperation

At the international level, the EU contributes to global health initiatives with €1.3 billion until 2020, including €200 million to the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and Global Financial Facility, for the current strategic period 2016-2020. The Commission is currently reviewing when and how to announce the pledge for the next GAVI replenishment period 2021-2025.

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