Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Coronavirus: Government advisor part of €12m grant for Covid vaccine research

coronavirus disease (covid 19) vaccination event outside the bronx writing academy school in new york city

In her capacity as an academic, a member of the government’s coronavirus advisory team has received a grant from the EU on Covid vaccine research for her university department.

Zoe Dorothea-Pana, a lecturer in paediatrics at the European University Cyprus’ School of Medicine, and member of the covid team advising the health minister, is one of several recipients of a combined €12 million grant in an EU-funded programme dubbed Vaccelerate.

According to a February 2021 European Commission press release: “Horizon 2020 funding will support the rapid establishment of a new EU-wide vaccine trial network called Vaccelerate and boost capacities to track and analyse virus variants and to share data by reinforcing the European Covid-19 Data Platform and other existing research infrastructure projects and networks. Horizon Europe funding will complement this action by providing further support for open data sharing, cohorts studies and for vaccine trials.”

The same press release explains: “Vaccelerate will receive a €12 million grant to support the rapid establishment of a clinical research network already spanning 21 countries, while other countries are encouraged to join. It will work in close collaboration with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to enable clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines and prepare Europe for other emerging infectious diseases in the future. In particular, it will help determine safety and efficacy of vaccines in priority groups (e.g. the elderly, pregnant women, and children), assess efficacy of vaccines for new Sars-CoV-2 variants, or for different combinations of different existing vaccines (“mix and match”). It will act as a single entry point for vaccine developers, including SMEs, who are looking for European infrastructure to carry out vaccine trials…”

The Cyprus Mail contacted Dorothea-Pana for comment, but she could not be reached in time for this report.

Her page on the European University website does not currently cite the Vaccelerate programme. But she does cite it on her LinkedIn page.

European University CEO and President of the Council Christoforos Hadjikyprianou confirmed the university had applied and was approved for the grant, but did not have further details.

Vaccelerate’s own website (https://www.vaccelerate.eu/consortium.html) lists the grant collaborators, broken down into modules or ‘work packages’. Dorothea-Pana is assigned Work Package 8 -Volunteer Registries. It states: “The overall objective of WP8 is the design and implementation of an EU-wide, dynamic, harmonised, and sustainable volunteer registry for phase 2 & 3 vaccines clinical trials with an initial focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, and for the future expansion to any forthcoming European epidemic/pandemic. It will be built on the recently established German volunteer registry and is currently expanding to four other countries, with 12 other countries on the way.

“WP8 strives to expand volunteer registries from healthy individuals to patients in specific sub-groups which is an essential resource for the identification of eligible volunteers for phase 2 & 3 vaccine clinical trials and can also be used to facilitate access to populations underrepresented in current vaccine trials.”

Launched in February 2021, the Vaccelerate programme has a duration of 36 months.

Scientists in all fields are free to collaborate with others on multiple projects. Dorothea-Pana has been very public in her advocacy of mass vaccination in Cyprus.

On Tuesday, and speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, she advocated for the immunisation of 16 and 17-year-olds against Covid-19 with mRNA vaccines.

And previously, she has spoken of the likely need for a third booster shot of a Covid vaccine, as in her view immunity acquired through vaccination may not be permanent.

The lead in the Vaccelerate consortium is Dr Oliver A. Cornely, Professor and Chair of Translational Research at the Cecad Institute of the University of Cologne, Germany with whom Dorothea-Pana co-authored a research paper in 2016.

On the paper Oliver Cornely declared as competing interests, research grants from, or acting as advisor to, or receiving lecture honoraria from several organisations – including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Bayer and Leeds University.

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