COVID19: Cyprus joins EU fight against variants

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Cyprus has joined the European Union’s plan to tackle new and emerging COVID-19 strains through a new incubator tasked with scanning for variants, speeding regulatory approvals and boosting vaccine production.

Nicosia will assume a coordinating role for specific projects of the EU-wide vaccine trial network called VACCELERATE.

Health Ministry advisor and lecturer of Paediatrics at the European University Cyprus, Zoe Dorothea Pana, has a coordinating role for a project on Volunteer Registry, together with Greece, for Paediatric Centres in Europe.

VACCELERATE is part of the Commission’s new European bio-defence preparedness plan against COVID-19 variants called the HERA Incubator.

It will work with researchers, biotech companies, manufacturers and public authorities to detect new variants, provide incentives to develop new and adapted vaccines, speed up the approval process for these vaccines, ensure scaling up of manufacturing capacities.

The HERA Incubator will also serve as a blueprint for the EU’s long‑term preparedness for health emergencies, the Commission said.

The incubator is said to lay the groundwork for the recently proposed European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which the Commission billed as a “central element for strengthening the European Health Union” against future health threats.

Several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including those first identified in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (B.1.1.28), have raised international concern as they appear to be more transmissible and may impact the efficacy of certain treatments and vaccines.

Key tenets of the incubator include support for the development of tests for new variants, research and data exchange, genome sequencing and the launch of a COVID-19 clinical trial network dubbed VACCELERATE that includes 16 EU member states and five other countries.

The plan also aims to ramp up production of COVID-19 vaccines through new or updated purchase agreements that feature EU-based manufacturing and seeks to develop a voluntary dedicated licensing mechanism to facilitate technology transfer between manufacturers.

One of the main objectives of the HERA Incubator is to speed the authorization of adapted vaccines targeting COVID-19 variants.

The plan also foresees the early involvement of regulators in certifying new or repurposed production lines as critical to the speedy rollout of adapted vaccines.