Five of the eight projects being funded relate to diagnostics. These projects aim to develop devices that can be used to deliver fast results anywhere and which also enables front-line health workers to make diagnoses quickly and accurately. The remaining three projects will carry out research into new treatments that can be applied towards the current COVID-19 outbreak along with future coronavirus outbreaks.
The funding has been awarded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) which is a public-private partnership between the EU (represented by the European Commission) and the European pharmaceutical industry (represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA)). The IMI is jointly funded by the EU and the EFPIA and its aim is to develop next generation vaccines, medicines and treatments.
The eight successful projects made it through a competitive evaluation process and saw off competition from a "large number of high quality proposals" according to the official press release.
Commenting on the award of funding, IMI executive director Pierre Meulien said that "these new projects will make valuable contributions to the wider global effort to tackle the current and future outbreaks." €72m of the funding has been provided by the EU with a further €45m committed by a group of organisations that includes "associated partners" of the IMI and members of the wider pharmaceutical industry.
In a show of strength for the UK life sciences industry, two of the eight projects to be funded are headed by UK pharmaceutical businesses, namely BG Research and GeneFirst.
The project headed by BG Research will aim to devise a simple test to diagnose COVID-19 that can be used at a doctor's office or patient's home, and it will be capable of delivering results in just 40 minutes.
The project led by GeneFirst will also be focused on diagnostics. It will involve developing a diagnostic test that can simultaneously detect SARS-CoV-2 along with 30 other common respiratory bacteria and viruses.
Of the four other projects involving UK-based organisations, two relate to diagnostics and two to therapeutics.
The significant role being played by the UK life sciences industry in these IMI-funded projects emphasises the critical role that UK life sciences organisations are playing collectively in the global effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The involvement of so many UK organisations shows the willingness of the UK life sciences industry to work with partners from all over the world. As we recently reported, representatives from across UK life sciences industry have already demonstrated a strong spirit of collaboration by issuing a joint statement on their commitment to fighting the virus and assisting patients. We support the valuable contribution that the UK life sciences industry is making to both domestic and global initiatives aimed at fighting the pandemic.