EU and Africa step up research cooperation to combat coronavirus outbreak

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SCIENTIST

The European Union is stepping up its research and innovation cooperation with Africa in order to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is launching calls for expressions of interest to support research on the coronavirus and strengthen research capacities in sub-Saharan Africa. Three calls in total will be funded with up to €28 million from Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.

The first call, with a budget of €2.25 million from Horizon 2020, with additional €1.5 million from Sweden and €1.0 from France has been launched on 3 April. It will fund research into coronavirus pandemic preparedness in sub-Saharan Africa, to develop point-of-care diagnostics and validate existing tests. They will also support clinical management by running controlled trials for diagnostics and therapeutics of promising agents.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

The coronavirus outbreak is a global emergency, and we need to defeat it together. I am pleased to see the EU and Africa stepping up their collaboration through EDCTP, which is a key player in the global health research arena.

EDCTP brings together the European Union, 16 African and 14 European countries to fund research to combat infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. It is fully embedded in the EU-Africa High-Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on Science, Technology and Innovation, which develops joint long-term research and innovation priorities.

On 10 April, the partnership will launch two more calls to strengthen research capacities in sub-Saharan Africa. They will focus on infectious diseases affecting sub-Saharan Africa, including on the coronavirus.

  • €18 million for Coordination and Support Actions to strengthen EDCTP’s Regional Networks, more specifically their clinical research capacity to conduct multi-country clinical trials. This should also consolidate South-South and North-South collaborations between researchers and institutions; encouraging networking to maximise the impact of clinical research in Africa.
  • €5 million to build for capacity development for disease outbreak and epidemic response in sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), namely by establishing an African cohort of epidemiologists through training in institutions in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

This means the total amount of funding in the three new EDCTP calls from Horizon 2020 will reach up to €28 million. The Horizon 2020 investment delivers on the commitment to step up scientific cooperation between the EU and the African Union, set out in the Commission’s comprehensive Africa Strategy adopted on 9 March.

Support via EDCTP complements the ongoing major EU research and innovation effort to fight the virus. The Commission has moved quickly to mobilise public and private funding for urgently needed research and innovation working on diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. Strengthened global cooperation is an important part of the EU effort. This also includes the coordination of international initiatives under the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Diseases Preparedness (GloPID-R), and the contribution (€20 million so far) to the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI). This support to research and innovation is part of the common European response to the outbreak.

Background

Established in 2003, European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is a key part of the EU’s longstanding cooperation with Africa in health research. It focusses on the clinical development of new or improved medical interventions to prevent or treat infectious diseases affecting sub-Saharan Africa – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases.

The EU has supported EDCTP through its successive research and innovation programmes – currently through Horizon 2020. The programme runs on a ten-year basis. For 2014-24, the EU has committed up to €683 million through Horizon 2020, provided that this is matched by the European participating countries.

Two major EDCTP networks for strengthening the capacities of African countries to respond to infectious diseases outbreaks have already redirected efforts to tackle coronavirus: PANDORA-ID-NET – the Pan-African Network for Rapid Research, Response, Relief and Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Epidemics and ALERRT – the African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training.

EDCTP also supports networks of excellence research centres involved in clinical trials in the four regions of sub-Saharan Africa: West WANETAM, East EACCR, Central CANTAM and South TESA.

Source: European Commission

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