The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, announced on March 17th the decision to allocate €30 million to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Spanish National Research Council (ISCIII) for projects investigating the development of a vaccine against Covid-19.
The Ministry of Science and Innovation will allocate these resources for the development of projects and programs of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) and the (CSIC), which already have several projects underway related to the new coronavirus.
The Instituto de Salud Carlos III will receive €25.2 million, for projects related to Covid-19; while the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología del CSIC will obtain 4.5 million to study the new coronavirus and work on the development of vaccines.
The almost 30 million for research are part of the Royal Decree-Law on extraordinary measures to deal with the economic and social impact of Covid-19, approved by the Council of Ministers.
On the one hand, the ISCIII, as a health research funding body, will develop an urgent programme of aid for projects aimed at generating knowledge about the infection: analysing and understanding the biology of the virus; developing new therapeutic and prophylactic options, including vaccines; developing an epidemiological surveillance system and analysing its impact from the point of view of the health services.
In addition, it will also receive €1.2 million to cover exceptional needs caused by the new coronavirus crisis, such as the purchase of equipment or the payment of guards for increased services.
For its part, the National Biotechnology Centre (CNB) of the Spanish National Research Council will receive €4.45 million for coronavirus research expenses. With this item, it will promote the development of its current research and advance in protection strategies against SARS-CoV2.
The project designed by the CNB has six objectives:
- Generate basic tools and experimental models essential for the development of protection strategies
- Identify and test antiviral compounds for treatment of SARS-CoV2
- Develop specific monoclonal antibodies to protect against infection
- Molecular, structural and functional characterization
- Developing the next generation of vaccine candidates
- Computer modeling to understand the spread of the new coronavirus.
The CSIC’s National Centre for Biotechnology is a world pioneer in a method for cloning viruses that allows them to be genetically manipulated to attenuate their virulence and to achieve a vaccine. The team led by professors Luis Enjuanes and Isabel Sola is already working on a project to study the mechanisms of pathogenesis of the new coronavirus.
This CNB team was also selected in the recent EU emergency call for proposals, for a project to develop monoclonal antibodies to protect against the new coronavirus. The ISCIII, the CNB and other research centres have been declared critical health infrastructures and therefore remain fully operational for Covid-19 research.
The Royal Decree-Law approved on Tuesday also includes measures to guarantee the necessary agility in the procedures for granting these aids to scientific and technical research on this new coronavirus, ensuring close scientific monitoring of them, the Ministry said in the statement.
It also incorporates extraordinary measures in the field of employment for public entities that are part of the Spanish System of Science, Technology and Innovation that are involved in managing the health emergency and strengthens the means of personnel.
The Royal Decree-Law also modifies the Technical Provisions Fund of the Cervera program, to include the financing of business R+D+I projects of SMEs and mid-cap companies, through partially reimbursable aid managed by the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), in a line of aid that can reach €500 million.
By virtue of this modification, this fund will be able to cover not only projects in collaboration with technology centers, but also any business R&D&I project of SMEs and mid-cap companies, for example, independent companies with up to 1,500 employees, whether or not they are related to the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated that the victory will not be complete until there is a vaccine against the virus. This is precisely one of the messages he already sent when he announced the state of alarm. “These are measures to support scientific and medical research in the search for the vaccine in which the world is immersed, and Spain cannot remain on the sidelines”.