Commission to invest Eur 9 million into research for SARS prevention

Today in Brussels European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin announced at least €9 million will be made available to fund new research to help tackle Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). As the gathering of data on the transmissibility and pathogenesis of the SARS virus continues, much knowledge is still lacking concerning the transmission, reservoirs, stability and origin of the virus. The special call covers amongst others, surveillance and control, clinical manifestations including disease transmission, infection control procedures, interventions and vaccines, and risk assessment. Research projects resulting from this call should help pave the way for a new European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Asian partners should also participate in the initiative.

Commissioner Busquin said: „Within the Sixth EU Research Framework Programme (FP6 2003-2006) we are devoting €1,115 billion to combating major diseases. We are ready to face challenging new epidemics, that respect no borders. The first €9 million devoted to SARS research will serve as a catalyst at European and international level, to foster co-operation and reach a true critical mass in the fight against the syndrome. I hope that scientists across Europe and beyond will come forward with a range of robust proposals, helping to prevent the alarming and often tragic situation, that we witnessed across the world in the last few months.“

More research needed to prevent future epidemics

This special call for proposals follows the Extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting on 6th May which encouraged the Commission to take action in this area. In addition, the EU Network for the Epidemiological Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases called on the Commission to promote research to stamp out the SARS outbreak.

The scientific community has been remarkably rapid in making advances in response to the SARS epidemic. But while the most urgent research priorities continue to be revised in the light of new discoveries, the research envisaged under this call is highly relevant and the results could also be of value in tackling new or emerging disease situations. Involvement in these projects by partners from affected areas, such as the People’s Republic of China, will be important, in particular concerning work related to longer term follow up of recovered SARS cases and to the issue of environmental reservoirs and origin.

SARS: a declining threat?

The epidemic is being brought under control: the immediate dangers from the current SARS outbreaks seem to have receded, although there are still concerns about a possible resurgence of SARS. The most affected areas have been China, followed by Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and Singapore. As of 1st of July the total number of cases is estimated at 8,445 including 812 deaths. In Europe a total number of 111 cases (38 probable and 73 suspected cases) with no deaths have been registered in this outbreak.

Responding fast to emerging research needs

Following the Extraordinary Council of Ministers, the Commission reacted quickly, thanks to the inclusion of a new flexible mechanism called “Policy Oriented research” in the EU Framework Programme for research which allows to respond to urgent scientific support needs.

The special call covers amongst others, surveillance and control, research capacity and scientific support and advice, molecular epidemiology of SARS, clinical manifestations including disease transmission, infection control procedures, complementary support in the areas of testing, interventions and vaccines, risk assessment, management and communication. This initiative should pave the way for the establishment of a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The deadline for proposals is 30 September 2003 at 17.00 (Brussels local time).
For further information please visit:
Calls page Policy-oriented research:
http://fp6.cordis.lu/fp6/calls_activity.cfm?ID_ACTIVITY=500
SARS web page European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/health/ph_threats/com/sars/sars_en.htm

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