Coronavirus COVID-19

Ministry of Science and Innovation coordinates research and innovation efforts to combat COVID-19

News - 2020.4.2

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This was the explanation given by the minister, Pedro Duque, on Thursday in a press briefing at Moncloa Palace, at which he also reported on the good pace of scientific research in Spain to try and find a vaccination against the coronavirus.

Minister Duque appeared at a press briefing at Moncloa Palace, together with the Minister for Home Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, after chairing a video-conference with regional science and innovation councillors on Thursday afternoon to inform them of the latest progress in research into COVID-19 and to look at the situation in the autonomous regions in this matter.

At the meeting, which also included the participation of the Secretary-General for Research and the Secretary-General for Innovation, formulas were established for closer collaboration between institutions. All the regional councillors expressed their interest in joint collaboration, in holding periodic meetings and in conveying to their respective regional governments the key importance of science and innovation in combating the epidemic.

The video-conference served to agree on common protocols in the regions for the certification of material and the possibilities of enabling some research facilities with joint funding charged to the National Budget and regional budgets, as well as to the ERDF funds. They also discussed the COVID-19 Fund of 24 million euros managed by the Carlos III Health Institute, which has already received more than 800 proposals from different regional authorities.

A common procedure was also agreed to authorise a newly developed type of respirator that must be approved by the Spanish Agency for Medication and Health Products. Minister Duque underlined the need to be very thorough in the validation of new products and explained that they will be evaluated, with the minimum bureaucracy, to determine their usefulness.

The science and innovation councillors analysed the situation of innovative companies, that are changing their usual production to manufacture equipment to combat COVID-19, such as individual protection equipment and respirators.

The regional governments have also made available regional research resources to the government, to strengthen the system for the analysis of PRC diagnostic tests, coordinated by the Carlos III Health Institute, attached to the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

The ministerial department is working so that the bio-technology industry can achieve the maximum level of production of the supplies needed to tackle this pandemic. Specifically, major efforts are being made to develop diagnostic tests. Work is being done, on the one hand, to increase their production by the four companies certified to produce PCR tests and, on the other hand, so that other companies can produce PCR tests, rapid tests and RNA extraction kits, with the support of the Carlos III Health Institute in prototype testing.

This meeting comes on top of the weekly meetings with the European Union and authorities from other countries. Firstly, a meeting was held by video-conference on Tuesday with European representatives, to specifically address the availability of funds for the scientific fight against COVID-19. The minister explained that the government will try and ensure that Spanish industry benefits from funding for science and innovation.

A second meeting was also held with authorities from around the world organised by the United States Office of Science, which allowed Spain to gain an overall picture of international progress in seeking treatments and vaccinations to combat the coronavirus, at which it was observed that the research being carried out in Spain is at the same level as progress in other parts of the world.

Minister Duque highlighted the state of research to obtain antiviral treatments and a vaccination at Spanish centres, which are following several line of enquiry that it is hoped will provide results in the coming months.

First candidate for vaccination by end of April

These include the vaccination sought by the team of professors Luis Enjuanes and Isabel Sola at the National Bio-Technology Centre (Spanish acronym: CNB) and the National Scientific Research Council (Spanish acronym: CSIC) - a leading international centre - which will be ready for its first candidate by the end of April, which must then be tested on animals. The minister explained that only one other group in the world is looking into this line of research, which involves working towards a complete attenuated vaccine for the virus. This is among the most advanced vaccines in the world which has more possibilities of working from the outset", he explained.

Progress is also being made on other Spanish research projects, also run by the CNB by Professor Mariano Esteban, where work is being done on another type of vaccine that is quicker, because it uses a part of the virus, and which may also have encouraging results. "We still think that there is a possibility that a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus will be discovered in Spain", he said.

Non official translation