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$8bn Covid-19 R&D target met, with €1bn from Horizon 2020


Global donors answer European Commission call to fund pandemic response

A global fundraising drive for Covid-19 R&D—hosted by the European Commission on 4 May with the aim of funding the development of vaccines, diagnostic tests and therapeutics and making them accessible and affordable worldwide—has met its $8 billion (€7.4bn) target.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very proud” and “relieved” that the figure had been reached. She pledged the first €1bn contributed to the drive, with the funds coming from the EU’s R&D programme, Horizon 2020.

Of that €1bn, €325 million had already been allocated from Horizon 2020 to fight Covid-19 since January. This included funds for 18 research projects and for the Innovative Medicines Initiative public-private partnership and the European Innovation Council, which supports small companies and entrepreneurs.

The remaining €675m from Horizon 2020 included €400m in loan guarantees, with a previously announced €80m loan to the German vaccine company CureVac. It also included a fresh €175m to extend existing research; a doubling of support for the global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation vaccine initiative, to bring the support to €100m; €32.5m for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions individual fellowships; and €15.5m for research infrastructures.

In total, the EU and its member states promised €4 billion during the event, which grew out of a call for action by the World Health Organization on 24 April. The $8bn target came from an analysis by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent monitoring and advocacy body. It covers the urgent R&D needed to prevent Covid-19 from spreading and to shore up health systems in poor countries.

The Commission will not receive any funding itself. Instead, the funds will go directly to three partnerships that will be created to take forward the work on vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.

Spending plans sketched out before the event set aside $6bn for R&D, to be split between vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. During the event, countries chose to pledge for specific actions. The Commission has since removed this breakdown.

In addition to the funds pledged by the Commission, the European Investment Bank has set aside €141m from its own resources. It is also offering advice and support to biomedical companies working to stop Covid-19.