On 4 July 2023 the two project consortia of COVend and ENVISION, held a joint Cluster and Policy Event at the Representation of the State of Hesse to the EU in Brussels, Belgium, bringing together policymakers, health authorities, clinicians, and researchers to review the scope and benefits of COVID-19 actions and get prepared for future pandemics while strengthening our healthcare systems.
Highway to Health Event begins with Prof. Dr. Dr. Kai Zacharowski speech on the importance of lessons learnt in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and a constructive dialogue between health authorities, policymakers, clinicians and researchers. The event followed with opening remarks delivered by Axel Wintermeyer, Minister to the State of Hessen, emphasizing the need for secure and stable supply chains, access to valid health data, and the strengthening of the current crisis infrastructure.16:30
The European Commission representatives Dr. Patricia Urban Lopez and Dr. Ulla Närhi highlighted the role of the EU on pandemic preparedness. They noted that to achieve these objectives the following needs to be done: include science closely in the priority setting and decision-making for the response, use existing instruments for funding where feasible, improve coordination on clinical trial infrastructure at the EU level, commit to sustain strong regional clinical trial networks, sustain the trial network infrastructure during peace time, establish a platform for open data sharing during and outside pandemics, coordinate funding from multiple sources, and have a quick, effective, and coordinated funding mechanism in place when the pandemic hits.16:55
Dr. Jeanette Müller, charing the discussion with Dr. Patricia Urban Lopez, Dr. Ulla Närhi and Dr. Andreas Holtel, opens it with a look back at the pandemic and the important role the EU ecosystem plays in pandemic preparedness, looking at the various initiatives and existing frameworks that stakeholders have put in place to be better prepared in the future.
The talk provided valuable insight into the EU initiatives for pandemic preparedness. HERA is currently working on improving the preparedness for future pandemics, stressing the importance of cooperation between member states, and providing a call to action for the scientific and healthcare community to become involved in research and policy-making. It was highlighted that networks that are enactable in times of crisis, realistic structural thinking for the setup and maintenance of the networking, and follow-up activities in terms of feedback from agencies are all necessary. The conversation was extremely fruitful and brought a positive outlook for the future of pandemic preparedness in the EU.
The conversation was extremely fruitful and brought us closer to the EU perspective on pandemic preparedness for the future.17:10
Prof. Dr. Dr. Kai Zacharowski, a Project Coordinator of COVend and ENVISION gave a presntation on the achievements of both projects and how these can be used to be better prepared for potential pandemics in the future.17:25
At the event, Elia Torroella from RBDCOV-EU presented the project and gave an insight into the challenges and opportunities faced in the course of the project. This project focuses on testing the safety, tolerability and efficacy of a new recombinant protein vaccine against the virus. The vaccine contains a receptor-binding domain (RBD) dimer which is adjuvanted with a very well-established adjuvant with two different clinical studies to be conducted in adults with immunocompromising conditions and in paediatrics. Challenges that had to be faced during the project included the evolution of the pandemic as well as regulatory frameworks. Further lessons learned included the need to build new collaboration networks and the challenges for developing new-generation vaccines against COVID-19.17:40
At the presentation by Anaïs Belledant from EPIC-CROWN-2, key insights were unveiled about the project. This project is a consortium of four organizations, with the aim to develop and validate a safe and efficient antiviral therapeutic approach, utilizing the use of potent and broad neutralizing horse anti-SARS-CoV-2 polyclonal F(ab’)2 antibodies. One of the many endeavours in the project is the production of polyclonal antibodies to GMP grade and demonstration of neutralizing activities against most of the VOCS and the validation of efficacy in VIVO death prevention of the product in a human mice model. FBR-002 was also highlighted as having potent neutralizing activities against VoCs, as well as preventing death induced by Omicron and Delta variants. Additionally, the safety profile of FBR002 has been validated in clinical phase 2A, allowing the clinical trial of this project to launch in Q3 2023.17:55
The presentation by Timothée Dub from MOOD highlighted the objectives and data-driven tools developed by their project to tackle emerging health threats. Their approach focuses on the co-conception of tools and services based on end-user needs at national and supra-national public/animal health agencies, from user needs to research & development for improved epidemic intelligence and disease surveillance in Europe and beyond. Specifically, they've developed a platform aiming to provide access to a wide range of standardized and queryable co-variate data sets used in epidemiological studies to a wide range of users, making existing and available data more easily available and processable to a much wider range of specialist and non-specialist users, as well as improve early detection and follow-up of emerging health threats of known and new origin (syndromic surveillance). These tools are intended to help improve epidemic intelligence activities at Public, Animal, Plant health agencies.18:10
Fiona du Monceau from ExeVir presented on the biotechnology company's approach to developing novel antibody therapeutics to combat viral infections by leveraging Nanobody technology. ExeVir is actively engaged in researching and developing therapeutic solutions for RSV and other emerging infectious diseases, with the goal of providing effective treatments that address unmet medical needs and improve patient outcomes.18:25
The COVID cluster projects and initiatives were showcased at the dedicated projects poster exhibition, including not only invited projects but other EU-funded projects under the same call. Among those are VASCOVID, ENDVOC, CoVISIS and RECOVER.18:40
The final panel of the event chaired by Prof. Dr. Dr. Zacharowski and attended by the esteemed panelists Dr. Alexander Rogobete, Dr. Patricia Urban Lopez, Dr. Ulla Närhi, Dr. Andreas Holtel, Ms. Cathy Weynants and Dr. Cristian-Silviu
Busoi held productive discussions regarding the impact of the current European pandemic and the measures that can be taken with regards to healthcare. It was concluded that remaining proactive and encouraging connectivity and digitalisation will benefit the broader health sector. It was also highlighted that politicians and clinicians need to have a strong network with each other in order to strengthen European healthcare. The panel concluded by presenting hopeful views for the future of European healthcare.