Author: Sam N

Professor Gita Ramjee passed away on 31 March 2020

On 31 March 2020, Professor Gita Ramjee, Chief Scientific Officer of the Aurum Institute in South Africa, passed away due to complications of a COVID-19 infection. Many in the EDCTP General Assembly, the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Secretariat worked with her and knew her well. We are sad and shocked by this loss. “We have lost a long serving member of our Scientific Advisory Committee and a dear and formidable colleague in the fight against infectious diseases. Prof. Gita Ramjee sadly succumbed to COVID-19, one more victim of this ravaging pandemic. This is a very heavy loss to the global scientific community and South Africa. We extend our sincere condolences to her family. May her soul rest in peace.” Dr Michael Makanga, EDCTP Executive Director

Professor Ramjee was a world-renowned scientist, known for her contribution to the fight against the HIV epidemic in South Africa and globally, focussed on HIV prevention solutions for women. She published more than 200 research articles.

At the opening ceremony of the Ninth Forum in Lisbon, EDCTP awarded its 2018 Prize for Outstanding Female Scientist to Prof. Gita Ramjee, at the time Chief Specialist Scientist and Director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa.

She was lauded for her extensive experience in HIV prevention methods for women and her investigations of women-initiated HIV prevention options. She conducted large-scale trials of antiretroviral-based oral and topical prophylaxis. Her excellence in clinical research and capacity building had brought her the Life Time achievement award in HIV prevention by a panel of international peers. She was also a recipient of the South African MRC Gold Award given for scientific excellence.

We extend our sincere condolences to her family. May her soul rest in peace.

Source: EDCTP.org

South Africa COVID-19 Online Resource and News Portal

What is COVID-19?

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, China. ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative agent of what we now know as ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ (COVID-19). Since then, the virus has spread to more than 100 countries, including South Africa.

The government of South Africa has set up a COVID-19 Online Resource and News Portal. This is to enable the public to receive up-to-date information about the pandemic. No data or airtime is required to access the portal.

Click here to access portal.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African society

Call for research project proposals:  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African society

Deadline – 30 May 2020

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus began in China in December 2019, the world has been flooded with messages about how to curb its spread. Governments have activated legislation enabling them to shut down public spaces, promote social distancing, and ensure people in high-risk countries retreat into self-isolation. A novel virus, COVID-19 has impacted the globe, and has begun to reshape the manner in which governments act for the sake of public health, how our environment functions and our interpersonal relationships. What it means to be human in relation to a changing environment is being redefined, and in some cases maybe permanently so.

As the number infected surpasses 400 in South Africa, Government, with many stakeholders, are contemplating next steps to curb the infection rate. Many have articulated that the effect of COVID-19 is profound, and that we are at another defining moment that will have long-lasting impact on socioeconomic dynamics in South Africa.

The DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development is calling for proposals for research projects that will be funded in 2020/21 up to a maximum of R300 000 per project to begin understanding the impact of this pandemic on the society of South Africa and what it means for human development.

Kindly send us an application by no later than 30 May 2020

An application template is attached below
Kindly email applications to Mr Lethu Kapueja, Centre Manager, at coe.human@wits.ac.za.

Click here to access the application form.

 

Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme 2020

Guidelines

Please read carefully the Call for proposals guidelines before filling in the application form.

How to Apply

Applications must be submitted in accordance with the admissibility requirements set out under Section 5 and by the deadline set out under Section 3 of the Call for proposals Guidelines. Please also consult the submission procedures in Section 14 of the Call for proposals Guidelines.

Registration in the Funding & tenders opportunities portal

Before submitting an electronic application, the lead applicants and all co-applicants (the partner HEIs from Africa and the EU Technical Partner) will have to register their organisation in the Funding & tender opportunities Portal hosted in the Funding & Tender Opportunities Portal and receive a Participant Identification Code (PIC9-digit number), serving as the unique identifier of their organisation in the Funding & tender opportunities Portal. The PIC will be requested in the application form. Guidance on how to register can be found on the Funding & tender opportunities Portal.

Please note that a number of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) already have their PIC validated. Applicants are invited to check whether they and their partners already have a PIC before creating a new one in order to avoid duplicates and delays at subsequent stages.

Submission of the grant application

Applications must be submitted online using the correct application form (eForm).

Please note that only the on-line submission of the eForm and its Annexes will be considered as the formal valid application. Applications submitted by fax or e-mail will not be accepted.

To access the eForm and its user guide, please click on the tab “Eforms” on the left menu.

To access the templates of the mandatory Annexes, please click on the tab “Annexes” on the left menu.

The eForm must be downloaded and saved on a local disk. Please read carefully the instructions on how to apply with the eForm and the minimum IT requirements before you start downloading the eForm. Once you have completed the eForm and uploaded the annexes, you need to validate it. This triggers an automatic check that informs you about any errors that prevent the submission. In case of no errors, the submit button will be enabled and you can then submit your application. Once the application is submitted, you will receive a confirmation email with an application reference number. If not received, please contact the helpdesk.

Click here to access the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme Call for Proposals  Guidelines – EACEA/07/2020

The deadline for this call is 19 May 202017:00 (CET/CEST, Brussels time)

The mobility action will start in 2021.

Contact Information

If you are looking for additional information about this Call for proposals or if you have specific questions on the application process, you can send an email to the following mailbox:

  • EACEA-IntraAfrica-IntraACP@ec.europa.eu

If, after referring to the e-Form user guide, you still have a question or have encountered a technical problem in relation to the eForm, please contact the HelpDesk services:

  • Helpdesk e-mail address: eacea-helpdesk@ec.europa.eu
  • HelpDesk telephone number: +32 2 299 0705

Useful Links

https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/intra-africa/funding/intra-africa-academic-mobility-scheme-2020_en

COST Open Call collection date – postponed until October 2020

The COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) has taken the decision to postpone the Open Call collection date in response to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 2020 COST Open Call (OC-2020-1) will be postponed by 6 months and will now close on Thursday 29 October instead of Wednesday 29 April. The decision to postpone the call has been taken to enable researchers the necessary time to develop their proposals in light of the global disruption caused by the pandemic.

Further information

A dedicated web page addressing COST’s response to coronavirus has been created on the COST website, which will be updated regularly.

Further information will also be shared through our e-newsletter and social media channels. The e-newsletter subscription link can be found at the bottom of this page.

Useful links:

 

M-ERA.NET Joint Transnational Call 2020

This call has been open since 17 March 2020.

We would like to inform you about the Launch of the M-ERA.NET Joint Transnational Call 2020.

28 funding agencies from 22 countries participate with a total budget of more than 20 million € national/regional funding.

The Call 2020 includes the following thematic areas:

  • Modelling for materials engineering and processing
  • Innovative surfaces, coatings and interfaces
  • High performance composites
  • Functional materials
  • New strategies for advanced material-based technologies in health applications
  • Materials for additive manufacturing

The aim is to fund ambitious transnational RTD projects addressing materials research and innovation including materials for low carbon energy technologies and related production technologies. M-ERA.NET aims to strengthen the contribution of materials R&D to energy-related applications where applicable.

Deadline for mandatory pre-proposals is 16 June 2020 (12:00 noon / Brussels time)

More information about the participating funding organisations and conditions are available on our website: https://www.m-era.net/joint-calls/joint-call-2020

We strongly recommend contacting your regional/national funding agency for regional/national programme details.
You are kindly invited to take this opportunity for realizing transnational R&D projects in Materials Research & Innovation or disseminate this information to related parties in your networks.

_______________________________________________________________

Please register for the M-ERA.NET newsletter to receive up-to-date information:  https://m-era.net/newsletter
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_ERA_NET

European Commission Research Actions on Coronavirus

Actions taken to tackle the novel coronavirus

SARS-CoV-2 outbreak On 30 January 2020, the European Commission launched a request for expressions of interest entitled “SC1- PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2020: Advancing knowledge for the clinical and public health response to the [COVID-19] 1 epidemic”, with a budget of €10 million, which was subsequently increased to €47.5 million given the scale of the outbreak and the potential of the research projects submitted.

Seventeen research projects were shortlisted for funding. These projects are expected to advance our understanding of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), contribute to more efficient clinical management of patients infected with the virus, and to the public health preparedness and response to the outbreak. Research teams are expected to share data rapidly so that results can immediately inform the public health response.

Such rapid reaction is made possible by the standing budget line for emergency research funds that the Commission maintains as part of the Horizon 2020 annual work programmes for Health research.

 

Ongoing projects for preparedness and response to outbreaks

In the past years the European Commission has invested greatly in research to prepare exactly for this type of public health emergency. Several EU funded projects (both Framework Programme 7 and Horizon 2020) are currently contributing to the European and global preparedness and response activities. These include:

The PREPARE project, which supports the readiness of hospitals in Europe and enhances their understanding of the dynamics of the outbreak. This project has upgraded its response efforts to the novel Coronavirus (SARSCoV-2) epidemic to Outbreak Research Response Mode 3, the highest response mode. This means that PREPARE will immediately initiate and implement clinical research studies on SARS-CoV-2 across Europe2 . 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. EU grant: €24 million.

The European Virus Archive – GLOBAL (EVA-GLOBAL or EVAg), a virtual collection for human, animal and plant viruses, which to date has already responded to more than 1200 requests, to provide access to the necessary material for diagnosing coronavirus infection3 . EU grant: €12.2 million.

Additionally, the Commission is working with other research funders through the “Global research collaboration for infectious disease preparedness” (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 needs4 . EU grant to support GloPID-R 2: €1.3 million.

VEO is a new project started in January 2020, working on diagnostics and data mining, including the use of social media. EU grant: €15 million.

MOOD is also a new project started in January 2020, on data mining and providing epidemic modelling. EU grant : €14 million.

 

Other ongoing efforts

On 3 March a special fast track call for research proposals was announced by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry through its association EFPIA.

The European Commission funds IMI through Horizon 2020 and will contribute up to €45 million to this call. A commitment of a similar scale is expected from the pharmaceutical industry so that the total investment could reach up to €90 million. The IMI call invites proposals for projects to develop treatments and diagnostics to better tackle the COVID-19 outbreak and to increase preparedness for potential future outbreaks.

Through the current IMI portfolio, the following projects are actively involved in the novel coronavirus outbreak:

The Zoonotic anticipation and preparedness initiative (ZAPI) is a research project that aims to create new platforms and technologies that will facilitate a fast, coordinated, and practical response to new infectious diseases as soon as they emerge. Their focus includes other coronaviruses, potentially allowing for transfer of technology and expertise for the current outbreak.

The value of diagnostics to combat antimicrobial resistance by optimising antibiotic use (VALUE-Dx) project aims to transform medical practice by making it easier for doctors to deliver personalised, evidencebased antibiotic prescriptions thanks to the use of innovative diagnostic strategies. The project focuses on respiratory tract infections in community care settings but the project’s findings are also likely to be relevant for other infections, such as the novel coronavirus.

The Combatting bacterial resistance in Europe (COMBACTE-NET) is dedicated to building strong clinical, laboratory and research networks across Europe. COMBACTE-NET has established a pan-European network of clinics and hospitals for more efficient and speedy testing of novel treatment strategies, a network of microbiology laboratories to support the diagnosis of patients and identify the most appropriate treatments as well as to validate diagnostics tests. An epidemiologic network has also been established in the COMBACTE-MAGNET project that harmonises and connects various European systems of disease surveillance.

The EXSCALATE platform – one of the outcomes of the EU funded project Antarex– is fully operational at the Italian Supercomputer in CINECA analysing COVID-19 proteins based on data available from the scientific community in order to accelerate the search of an effective therapy against the pandemic virus.

The applications of the HPC Centre of Excellence for Computational Biomolecular Research ‘BioExcel’ can be used for on-demand, large-scale virtual screening of potential medical compounds such as small molecule drugs, antibodies etc. The applicability depends on the specific case of pandemic cause.

The access policy of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking foresees prioritised and immediate access to its supercomputers for emergency as is the case in pandemic crises.

The European Commission has invested also in the development of clinical networks over many years to ensure preparedness for delivering clinical research in response to new infectious disease outbreaks including the above mentioned PREPARE, COMBACTE-NET and VALUE-Dx, among others.

Through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP 2), the following projects are also currently active in the coronavirus outbreak:

The African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training (ALERRT), has a response framework that alleviates administrative, regulatory and ethical bottlenecks and mobiles research capabilities ensuring swift action to initiate fit-for-purpose clinical and laboratory research in varying settings within subSaharan Africa. Institut Pasteur de Dakar, one of the partners of the project, is leading the activities for country preparedness under the direction of the Africa CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention).

The Pan-African Network For Rapid Research, Response, Relief and Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Epidemics (PANDORA-ID-NET), which focuses on epidemic preparedness, is currently collaborating with the Africa CDC to offer assistance in terms of surveillance and laboratory skills training.

Additionally, EDCTP supports networks of research centres that are involved in clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa. These Networks of Excellence (NoEs) facilitate research collaboration by uniting diverse institutions in the four regions of sub-Saharan Africa. To date, EDCTP funded the establishment of four regional Networks of Excellence: WANETAM, EACCR, CANTAM and TESA.

Background on coronavirus

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

End of December, Chinese authorities identified a cluster of what is now recognised as “novel coronavirus” (SARS-CoV-2) infections in Wuhan, China. This is a new virus strain not been previously identified in humans. The outbreak of COVID-19 initially spread rapidly within China, but is now affecting more than 70 countries worldwide. On 30 January 2020, the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Updates on the latest evolution of the outbreak can be found on the following websites: –

  • ECDC: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china
  • WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

________________________________

  1. The initial name “nCoV-2019” was replaced by the official terms COVID-19 for the disease or SARS-CoV-2 for the virus.
  2. https://www.prepare-europe.eu/News/News-items/ID/1214
  3. https://www.european-virus-archive.com/
  4. https://www.glopid-r.org/

COST | Open Call for Proposals – Collection OC-2020-1

COST aims to enable breakthrough scientific developments leading to new concepts and products. It
thereby contributes to strengthening Europe’s research and innovation capacities.
In order to achieve its mission and goal, COST has identified a set of objectives aiming at supporting
high quality, collaborative networks in all fields of science and technology, while focusing on existing but
less prevailing areas allowing to increase COST overall impact:

  • Joining research efforts and developing common S&T programmes by coordinating nationally
    funded research activities led by pan-European, high quality, collaborative S&T networks.
  • Building capacity by providing networking and leadership opportunities for emerging talents and
    thereby strengthening and building up excellent S&T communities.
  • Addressing Societal Questions by promoting transdisciplinary, new approaches and topics and
    identifying early warning signals of unforeseen societal problems aiming to contribute to Societal
    Challenges.
  • Strengthening COST Inclusiveness Policy by fostering better access and integration of less
    research-intensive countries’ researchers to the knowledge hubs of the European Research
    Area aiming at contributing to the Widening Pillar of Horizon 2020.

COST brings together European researchers, engineers and scholars from different COST countries to
jointly develop their own ideas and new initiatives across all science and technology fields through transEuropean cooperation. COST encourages and fosters trans-, multi- and interdisciplinary approaches by
integrating researchers, engineers and scholars from different fields and horizons such as universities,
research centres, companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as other relevant
actors.

COST does NOT fund research itself, but supports networking via different tools such as meetings, short
term scientific missions, training schools and dissemination activities part of COST Actions. COST
invites proposals for Actions aiming at contributing to the scientific, technological, economic, cultural or
societal knowledge advancement and development of Europe to close the gap between science, policy
makers and society throughout Europe and beyond.

Proposals should reflect the main characteristics of COST Actions, namely providing for knowledge
sharing, creation and application, being open and output-oriented while aiming at strengthening the
scientific and technological basis of the proposed topic(s).

Proposals should also respond to the COST Excellence, Inclusiveness and Widening policy, which aims
to provide collaboration opportunities to all researchers, engineers and scholars in COST countries,
encourage participation among young talents and next generation leaders, in particular promoting
working opportunities for early career investigators, and ensure gender balance, paving the way towards
breakthrough developments and innovations.

Proposals will be evaluated against criteria of S&T excellence, networking excellence, impact and
implementation.

Proposals for a COST Action must represent a network composed of proposers from at least seven (7)
COST Members1 amongst which a minimum number shall be from COST Inclusiveness Target
Countries (ITC)2.

Selected proposals for COST Actions will get a financial support in the range of EUR 134.000 p.a.,
normally for four years, subject to available budget.

Proposers are invited to consult the set of COST Implementation Rules, approved by the Committee of
Senior Officials (CSO), the general assembly of the COST Association3.

The COST Action Proposal Submission, Evaluation, Selection and Approval (SESA) rules and
procedure are based on the bottom-up, open and inclusive principles of COST and will ensure a simple,
transparent and competitive evaluation and selection of proposals (see document COST 133/14 REV5
– COST Action Proposal Submission, Evaluation, Selection and Approval)3.

Proposers benefit from a one-stage submission based upon a proposal of up to 15 pages.

Submitted proposals will be checked against eligibility criteria and can be declared as non-eligible at
any point of the process should any breach of those be identified during the evaluation as defined in the
rules. Similarly, any attempt not to respect the conflict of interest rules can lead to the immediate
exclusion of the proposal from the evaluation, selection and approval process.

Proposals will be evaluated remotely by a minimum of 3 independent External Experts in the S&T
field(s), sub-field(s) and research area(s) chosen by the proposers. Ad-hoc Review Panels shall ensure
the quality of the independent External Expert evaluation outcome, resolve potential differences in their
opinions and prepare a shortlist of proposals for examination and selection by the Scientific Committee.
The Scientific Committee shall identify, among the list of proposals presented by the Review Panels,
those that respond best to COST mission and policies. The Scientific Committee will establish the
shortlist of proposals that shall be presented to the CSO for approval.

The 2020-1 Collection Date is set to 29 April 2020 at 12:00 (CET) – Noon.

40 new Actions are expected to be approved in November 2020, subject to available budget.

The Proposal Template (Technical Annex) is available under https://www.cost.eu/funding/how-to-getfunding/documents-and-guidelines 4. The Guidelines for submitting COST Action proposals are
available on the same page. Proposals must be submitted electronically via e-COST. Proposers will be
able to submit proposals anytime throughout the year via the e-COST new online submission tool.

The next Collection Date is envisaged for December 2020.

Proposers may wish to contact their COST National Coordinator (CNC) for information and guidance –
see www.cost.eu/cnc.

COST receives financial support from the EU RTD framework programme, Horizon 2020. The COST
Association, integrating governance, management and implementing functions, provides for the
administrative, scientific and technical support in the operation of COST rules and procedures and the
management of COST Actions.

_________________________________

  1. The full list of COST Members is available at https://www.cost.eu/who-we-are/members
  2. See list of ITC countries at https://www.cost.eu/who-we-are/cost-strategy/excellence-and-inclusiveness and the minimum number of ITC in the network in the annex 2 (page 16) in the Document COST 133/14 REV5: COST Action Proposal Submission, Evaluation, Selection and Approval at https://www.cost.eu/funding/how-to-getfunding/documents-and-guidelines.
  3. See Documents COST 132/14 REV6, 133/14 REV5, 134/14 REV3, 135/14 REV2 under https://www.cost.eu/funding/how-to-get-funding/documents-and-guidelines.
  4. See Technical Annex.docx.
_______________________________
Update: 23 March 2020

The COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) has taken the decision to postpone the Open Call collection date in response to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 2020 COST Open Call (OC-2020-1) will be postponed by 6 months and will now close on Thursday 29 October instead of Wednesday 29 April. The decision to postpone the call has been taken to enable researchers the necessary time to develop their proposals in light of the global disruption caused by the pandemic.

Further information

A dedicated web page addressing COST’s response to coronavirus has been created on the COST website, which will be updated regularly.

Further information will also be shared through our e-newsletter and social media channels.

Useful links:

Open Call – how to apply

www.cost.eu/coronavirus

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