The European Union is investing in research, technology and innovation to develop solutions to overcome the most pressing health challenges facing Europe and the world. The European Commission has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of supporting research, including for preparedness and response to infectious diseases.
Over €4 billion was invested from 2007 to 2019 in infectious disease research and another €1 billion in funding was mobilised for coronavirus research as of 2020. The new (2021-2027) EU funding programme for research and innovation (R&I), Horizon Europe, will continue funding R&I for infectious diseases, including poverty-related infectious diseases, neglected infectious diseases and (re-)emerging infectious diseases.
European research and innovation in health is about working together across borders and sharing each other’s knowledge and resources. That is why the Commission is actively engaging in international fora, such as GloPID-R, to ensure cooperation and collaboration with other research funders and actors.
Joining forces with partner organisations is crucial to find solutions to the challenges that cross-border health threats pose. GloPID-R provides an essential and unique platform and network for discussion, collaboration and cooperation with other research funders working in the area of pandemic preparedness and response.
Barbara Kerstiëns, Head of Unit, Research & Innovation DG, European Commission, GloPID-R co-chair
Horizon Europe is the research and innovation support programme in a system of European and national funding programmes that share policy objectives. Through the programme, special attention is given to ensuring cooperation between universities, scientific communities and industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and citizens, in order to bridge gaps between territories and ensure concrete collaborations. Funding opportunities under Horizon Europe for infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response research are set out in the Health Work Programme.
The work programmes for Horizon Europe are available to view and download on the Funding and Tenders Portal.
In September 2021, the European Commission launched the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies. HERA will anticipate threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities. When an emergency hits, HERA will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures. HERA will allow the EU to be better prepared and more able to respond. This will ensure that the EU, EU Member States and other global partners can work together to improve health security.
The Commission is working on setting up a European Partnership on Pandemic Preparedness. This partnership aims to improve the EU’s preparedness to predict, prevent and respond to emerging infectious health threats by better coordinating funding for research and innovation at EU, national (and regional) level towards jointly agreed objectives and an agreed strategic research and innovation agenda (SRIA). The partnership will contribute to building a coherent European Research Area (ERA) enabling Member States and the European Commission to rapidly and jointly support research and innovation in pandemic preparedness.
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that there was a need for large-scale, multi-centre clinical trials to identify medical countermeasures to combat the disease. In response to this, the European Commission facilitated the set-up of the “European network for COVID-19 therapeutics” in 2020. This network consists of three large-scale, multi-country adaptive platform trials (DisCoVerY, EU-SolidAct and REMAP-CAP). The adaptive trial design allows for efficient evaluation of treatments due to its flexibility in taking on new treatment arms while the trial is running. These trials have delivered important results for treatment options for the management of COVID-19 patients (Publications – REMAP-CAP, Results – EU-Response).
Importantly, effective trial coordination mechanisms, such as the trial coordination board (TCB) and the joint access advisory mechanism (JAAM), have been in place since autumn 2020. The TCB and the JAAM ensure optimal coordination of trials in the EU and abroad and provide a single entry point for new study arms in the European COVID-19 adaptive platform trials, thus limiting duplication and maximising the use of resources.
Furthermore, the Commission is also supporting the European-wide vaccine trial network, VACCELERATE. VACCELERATE is the backbone for accelerating phase 2 & 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials in Europe, connecting all stakeholders involved in vaccine development, and providing a pan-European platform for clinical trial design and conduct.
These EU-funded clinical trial networks are taking part in the GloPID-R Clinical trials Working Group, providing their perspectives and insights into the discussions held in this group.
The European Commission has invested heavily into research on preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, including for a public health emergency like COVID-19, by:
Further information on EU-funded initiatives and projects working on preparedness and response to health threats can be found below.
The European Commission is a partner in the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking, together with the EDCTP Association, whose members include several European and African countries. The Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking (GH EDCTP3 JU) builds on the successful first and second European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programmes. This partnership will deliver new solutions to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, and strengthen research capacities to prepare and respond to re-emerging infectious diseases in this region and across the world.
The GloPID-R Secretariat is a project which receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874667.