European Commission Update: Achievements in 2021 and plans for 2022
Main policy and international initiatives in pandemic preparedness and response during 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed for better and coordinated EU action to prepare and respond to health emergencies. To achieve this, in 2021 the European Commission launched the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies.
The Commission published the EU Strategy for COVID-19 therapeutics in May 2021. Within this strategy, a COVID-19 ‘therapeutics innovation booster’ is taking stock of COVID-19 therapeutics in their early stages, in order to boost their development and accelerate their availability.
Throughout the year, the Commission has also continued its support of large-scale clinical trials for COVID-19 medical countermeasures within two EU-wide clinical trial networks for COVID-19 therapeutics and for vaccines. The two networks ensure coordination and collaboration between the EU-funded trials and are also open to other large-scale trials in Europe and beyond.
- The COVID-19 therapeutics trial network currently includes three trials covering intensive care and hospitalised patients: the EU SolidAct trial, the DisCoVeRy trial and the REMAP-CAP trial.
- In February 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine trial network, VACCELERATE, was established. It provides a pan-European platform for clinical trial design and conduct to accelerate phase 2 & 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials in Europe, and connects stakeholders involved in vaccine development.
Main pandemic response funding awarded in 2021
On 22 July, the Commission short-listed 11 new projects worth €120M from Horizon Europe, the new 7-year (2021-2027) research and innovation framework programme for supporting and enabling urgent research into the coronavirus and its variants. These projects include clinical trials for new treatments and vaccines, as well as projects that will develop large scale, coronavirus cohorts. Other projects will reinforce research infrastructures, including the European COVID-19 Data Platform and the relevant European Life Science Research Infrastructures.
Upcoming initiatives in pandemic preparedness and response in 2022
Under Horizon Europe, the Commission will begin work on a European partnership on pandemic preparedness. This partnership will aim to improve the EU’s preparedness on emerging infectious health threats. This will be achieved by better coordination of funding for research and innovation at EU and national level based on jointly agreed objectives and an agreed strategic research and innovation agenda (SRIA). This will be developed throughout 2022 and the partnership will collaborate closely with the HERA.
Upcoming funding opportunities for pandemic preparedness and response research in 2022
Calls for proposals under the Horizon Europe 2022 work programme:
- HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-06-02-two-stage: Pre-clinical development of the next generation of immunotherapies for diseases or disorders with unmet medical needs
- HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-06-03-two-stage: Vaccines 2.0 – developing the next generation of vaccines
- HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-07-02: Pandemic preparedness
The Commission’s financial support for GloPID-R and for the Coalition for Epidemics Preparedness Initiative (CEPI) for vaccine research and development for emerging pathogens will continue in 2022.
- EU Strategy for the development and availability of COVID-19 therapeutics
- COVID-19 therapeutics network and Trial Coordination Board
- Funding for 11 new projects to tackle the virus and its variants
- Launch of HERA
- Horizon Europe Work Programme – Funding opportunities
- Future European partnership on pandemic preparedness