EU support for vaccines
For the fight against COVID, the Commission pledged €1.4 billion under the global response. €1 billion comes from H2020 (see breakdown), of which €350 million are dedicated to support coronavirus vaccine development.
Prior to the dedicated COVID-19 investments, over €650 million had been invested through Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) in vaccine and vaccination research and innovation, also building on efforts from previous research and innovation programmes. Overall, the EU spent more than €1 billion in vaccine research from Horizon 2020.
It is important to make a distinction between funding for research and development of vaccines, investment in the development of production capacities, and the payment of the prices of the vaccines. In addition to the research spending, the Commission is investing €2.9 billion in the development of production capacities on the basis of the Advance Purchase Agreements. And one should also take into account the prices paid by Member States to purchase the vaccines, which brings the total amount of support to over €30 billion.
The critical need for vaccines
The goal of a vaccine is to trigger an immune response, without causing the actual disease, that will subsequently provide some protection against an infection. Vaccines are developed using different approaches or technologies. Regardless of the technology used, all new vaccines in the EU must go through strict controls and trials for their safety, as well as efficacy. Potential vaccines must receive the appropriate authorisations before they are allowed to be used in the general population.
Learn more about vaccines and the Commission’s vaccine strategy.
The European Corona Vaccine Trial Accelerator Platform (VACCELERATE) received a €12 million grant in February 2021 for the establishment of a clinical research network already spanning 21 countries. It will work in close collaboration with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to enable clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and prepare Europe for other emerging infectious diseases in the future. Led by University-Clinic Köln (DE).
1st emergency call (January 2020)
In January 2020, the Commission launched an emergency call, through which €48.2 million were awarded to 18 research projects. The projects, which involve 151 teams from across Europe and beyond, have started working on improving preparedness and response to outbreaks, rapid diagnostic tests, new treatments and new vaccines.
Among these, 2 projects, are receiving €5.7 million to develop safe and effective vaccines:
Rapid therapy development through Open Coronavirus Vaccine Platform. The project will use DNA vaccine technology to develop a vaccine that can also be used as a therapy against the virus. Led by Karolinska Institutet (SE)
- OPENCORONA website
- Project details
- Story: Three KI-led coronavirus projects selected in EU funding round
- Testimonial: Matti Sällberg (Head of Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm)
Prevention of 2019 nCoV infection through development and clinical testing of a novel Virus Like Particle (VLP) vaccine to expose coronavirus proteins to the immune system. Led by Københavns Universitet (DK)
- Project details
- Story: Manufacturing agreement with AGC biologics accelerates COVID-19 vaccine program
- Testimonial from Morten Nielsen (Departement of immunology and microbiology, University of Copenhagen)
- Futuris video: Europe supercharges research in the battle against COVID-19
BioNTech (Biopharmaceutical New Technologies)
The European Commission has been supporting BioNTech and its founders for many years with major research and innovation grants both for its work on therapeutic antibodies and on mRNA. And it is a great example of how the EU can support frontier research, as well as more applied collaborative research involving academia and industry.
Previous funding either to the company or researchers’ academic affiliation helped build the foundation for subsequent innovations through these projects: MERIT - Mutanome Engineered RNA Immuno-Therapy (FP7); IACT - Immunostimulatory against antibodies for cancer therapy (FP7); APERIM - Advanced bioinformatics platform for PERsonalised cancer Immunotherapy (H2020); and SUMMIT - Stepping Up mRNA Mutanome Immunotherapy (H2020).
On 11 June 2020 the European Investment Bank (EIB) and BioNTech signed a €100 million loan agreement for the development and large-scale production of portfolio of vaccines, including a vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2. The funding comes from the EIB working in collaboration with the European Commission, through the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) which was possible thanks to EUR 30 million credit enhancement via Horizon 2020 InnovFin financing mechanism, and has helped to accelerate the development of the first coronavirus vaccine worldwide.
Commission offers financing to innovative vaccines company CureVac
€75 million in financing was offered to CureVac, an innovative vaccines company with a potential messenger RNA based vaccine for coronavirus. The funding comes from the European Investment Bank (EIB) working in collaboration with the European Commission, through the InnovFin financing mechanism, and will help accelerate development of a vaccine.
In 2014 CureVac received the first ever EU innovation inducement prize of €2 million.
- Story: ‘So far, so good’: The view from inside a coronavirus vaccine trial
- Testimonial: Lidia Oostvogels (Area head infectious diseases at Curevac)
- Story: Five things you need to know about: mRNA vaccines
Recent and ongoing projects
Sustainable downstream processing of vaccines through incorporation of nanobiotechnologies: higher purity, faster and cheaper with novel affinity ligands and biomimetic membranes. Led by Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica – IBET (PT).
- DiViNe website
- Project details
- Story: Faster, more affordable vaccine purification
- Story: Purification breakthrough opens door to cost-effective vaccines
Engineering of Mycoplasma pneumoniae as a broad-spectrum animal vaccine. This project developed a new approach for designing multivalent vaccines. This strategy can be used against pathogens that cause pulmonary diseases and therefore opening avenues to fight the coronavirus epidemic. Led by Fundació Centre de Regulació Genòmica (ES).
Newcotiana: breeding new plant biofactories
The Newcotiana project uses genome editing and other new breeding techniques to adapt tobacco plants as biofactories for health-related bioproducts, such as vaccines, and antibodies. In response to CoVid19 outbreak, Newcotiana incorporates Coronavirus antigens and antibodies to the list of target products, aiming to provide new design solutions and new manufacturing capacities for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic reagents.
On 16 April, the Newcotiana consortium made its plant genome public to help fight coronavirus to help pre-empt production shortfalls of proteins needed for diagnostic reagents and vaccines.
- Newcotiana website
- Project details
- Story: Powerful properties: how tobacco is being used to fight COVID-19
- Story: Research team makes plant genome public to help fight COVID-19
- Story: We can programme plants to grow biomolecules. Is farming the future of vaccines?
TRANSVAC2 supports a European vaccine research and development infrastructure that offers researchers a wide range of technical vaccine development services at no cost in most cases. Researchers developing vaccine candidates against COVID19 are encouraged to apply. The EU has invested €20.5 million in the TRANSVAC initiative since 2009.
At the international level, the EU contributes to global health initiatives with €1.3 billion until 2020, including €200 million to the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and Global Financial Facility, for the current strategic period 2016-2020. The Commission is currently reviewing when and how to announce the pledge for the next GAVI replenishment period 2021-2025.