Coronavirus COVID-19

Carlos III Health Institute launches COVID-19 fund to finance projects that improve knowledge about the virus and how to handle the disease in the short term

News - 2020.3.20

The Carlos III Institute of Health (Spanish acronym: ISCIII), which is managed under the Ministry of Science and Innovation, has opened applications to the COVID-19 Fund to finance research projects on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. This 24 million - euro fund, was approved in accordance with Spanish Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, of 17 March, on urgent and extraordinary measures to tackle the economic and social impact from the new coronavirus.

Within this framework, the ISCIII has activated a mechanism for receiving ideas and research projects about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 capable of improving the public health response and developing new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

The extraordinary finance mechanism represented by the COVID-19 Fund joins the various other projects, services and support mechanisms that the ISCIII has been developing and offering to the scientific and healthcare communities since the outbreak of this epidemic, mainly from the National Centres for Microbiology (Spanish acronym: CNM) and Epidemiology (Spanish acronym: CNE). In addition to the 24 million euros, the ISCIII has also received a further 1.2 million euros under the Royal Decree-Law that it will allocate in part to internal research projects.

The complete ruling on the COVID-19 Fund, with all the technical information related to presenting projects and details about the process, can be found here. Applications must be presented by sending an e-mail to covid19@isciii.es using the template that can be downloaded from this link to the website of the Carlos III Health Institute: the template can be downloaded here. All the information produced during this call for applications will be published on this same website and/or on the e-office of the ISCIII, which includes channels for shortening the application presentation, assessment and acceptance procedures given the urgency of the situation.

The applications submitted for assessment must be suited to the emergency situation stemming from the pandemic, meaning they should allow for immediate implementation and launch within the National Health System (Spanish acronym: SNS) with a priority on the achievement of specific and swift results applicable to the current situation. The period for submitting applications opens on 19 March and will remain so until the COVID-19 Fund is fully exhausted, which will be announced via the afore-mentioned channels.

Fields of research

Any initiative presented, which may be based on projects already under way or be entirely new initiatives, must be focused on the following areas:

  • Development of rapid virological diagnostic techniques for COVID-19 that can be transferred to industry and applied to healthcare services, with a priority focus on the diagnosis of early stages of infection and the handling of serious cases in order to streamline stratification and healthcare provision.
  • Clinical, biological and molecular characterisation of the disease, with analysis of clinical stages, prognostic stratification and possible complications.
  • Development of innovative therapies, new antiviral molecules, antiseptics and disinfectants to combat SARS-CoV-2; studies on antiviral resistance and the effectiveness of non-pharmacological, prophylactic and therapeutic interventions.
  • Characterisation of SARS-CoV-2, knowledge of the genetic and antigenic variation of the virus and handling of the immunological response and virus-host interaction.
  • Development of vaccines, analysis of their effectiveness and applicability.
  • Epidemiological surveillance and molecular study of COVID-19, with analysis of mortality, morbidity and fatality; study of environmental and social factors on propagation, risk factors and population dynamics of the infection.
  • Use of artificial intelligence and integrated big data analysis tools aimed at the epidemiological control of COVID-19.
  • Socio-economic impact of the disease: use of primary healthcare resources, general hospital resources and critical care resources.

The research projects must respect the fundamental principles established in the current draft of the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki, the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and also meet the requirements established in Spanish legislation in the field of biomedical research, personal data protection and bioethics.

Assessment Committee

The application selection process will be undertaken by a Scientific-Technical Committee for the Assessment of Expressions of Interest for Research Projects on COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 (CTE-COVID-19), a body supporting ISCIII management to this end for the issue of funding.

This committee will be in contact with applicants, support the presentation of projects and recommend possible approaches, inclusions or changes that will ensure the success of applications. It will also propose initiative funding to ISCIII management and will oversee the applications finally approved, with a capacity to make recommendations related to their development.

The Committee Coordinator will be Cristóbal Belda, Deputy General Director for Assessment and Promotion of Research at the ISCIII and Manager of Strategic Action in Health (Spanish acronym: AES), the main biomedical and healthcare funding tool in Spain. Another six members will sit on the committee: Manuel Cuenca, Deputy General Director of Applied Services, Training and Research at the ISCIII; Marina Pollán, Director of the National Epidemiology Centre (Spanish acronym: CNE-ISCIII); Jesús Oteo, Director of the National Microbiology Centre (Spanish acronym: CNM-ISCIII); Luis Enjuanes, a researcher at the National Biotechnology Centre (Spanish acronym: CNB) of the National Scientific Research Council (Spanish acronym: CSIC); Asunción Moreno, a scientist from the Spanish Network of Research in Infectious Diseases (Spanish acronym: REIPI); Cristina Prat, a researcher for the Respiratory Disease Biomedical Research Network Consortium (Spanish acronym: CIBERES); and César Hernández, from the Spanish Medicines and Healthcare Product Agency (Spanish acronym: AEMPS). The Committee Secretary will be Pilar Gayoso, from the Subdirectorate-General for the Assessment and Promotion of Research, who will hold speaking but no voting rights.

Once the applications received have been examined by the committee, ISCIII management will issue reasoned and individual rulings on the direct award of financial aid from the COVID-19 Fund in accordance with the provisions of Article 38.2 of Spanish Royal Decree-Law 8/2020.

Application of the COVID-19 Fund seeks to have an impact capable of helping to improve treatment of the disease during the current pandemic; improve the diagnosis and clinical treatment of patients infected by SARS-CoV-2; and to facilitate the design, development and implementation of public health measures for effectively responding to the current epidemic and possible future epidemics.

Non official translation