Coronavirus Unit: new actions against COVID-19

The National Agency for the Promotion of Research, Technological Development and Innovation (R + D + i Agency), at the instruction of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Nation, launches a special line of support for research groups that are in advanced stages of the preclinical phase of vaccines against COVID-19, especially those who seek to continue and / or conclude the in vivo trials of an industrially scalable vaccine candidate, to be specified in the next 18 months.

These actions are framed within the “Coronavirus Unit”, made up of the MINCyT, the R + D + i Agency and CONICET, and their financing will be through IDB funds and a reinforcement granted by the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers. In total, a total of $ 250 million pesos will be allocated to advance one more step in the design of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be implemented through the Argentine Sector Fund (FONARSEC).

Minister Salvarezza thanked the presence of the officials and the members of the evaluation commission for participating in this initiative and highlighted the role of the R + D + i Agency. “They have done a very good job, and a large part of the things we have achieved have been due to an acceleration in evaluation times”, he expressed.

The Minister also highlighted the support of the Chief of Staff: “The authorities always told us that this has to be done because it is a necessity. It is understood that in a country that has many problems, we cannot stop making an investment in knowledge that will allow us to face other emergencies and problems in the future ”.

Finally, Salvarezza highlighted the importance of the Science System Financing Law approved by Congress and promulgated by the Executive Branch and added that “for science there has been a position on the centrality of the emergency and that has allowed us to overcome debates and discussions that were previously very deep: useful vs useless science, or the discussion of” why do we want scientists? “

For his part, the president of the National Agency for the Promotion of Research, Technological Development and Innovation, Fernando Peirano, highlighted that “We are launching these instruments to go to a territory where, possibly, the promotion of science and technology has never arrived before: it is the support for projects in vaccines. This is a line that continues what we started last year in the Coronavirus Unit where biomedical disciplines, engineering, computer science and social sciences have been able to build concrete solutions to the pandemic. The range of results is wide. There are the projects that presented vaccine developments that today can continue in this new phase that we are promoting. Where there is a knowledge base, we build capacity. Where we confirm the existence of capabilities, we build a social or productive solution “.

The members of the evaluation commission who were present highlighted the work of the Coronavirus Unit, in particular the importance of supporting research on vaccines for the contingency of the pandemic, but also to generate their own capacities that allow achieving sovereignty in matters related to health .

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In addition to supporting research for the development of vaccines in the preclinical phase, there will be two new calls. The first to give impetus to new grassroots research that designs and develops strategies aimed at providing long-lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2, especially that contribute to the development of vaccines. The selected initiatives will each receive up to $ 7.5 million pesos out of a total of $ 75 million pesos contemplated in the call.

The second call is aimed at the formation of new research networks of public and private institutions for project ideas that study the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of the sequelae of the disease. The selected initiatives will receive financing of up to $ 10 million pesos each for a total of $ 75 million pesos. These last two calls will be in charge of the Fund for Scientific and Technological Research (FONCyT).

The members of the Evaluation Commission, Daniela Hozbor, Mario Lozano, Emilio Malchiodi, Jorge Geffner and Claudia Perez Leirós participated in the meeting; Laura Toledo, Director of FONARSEC and Guido Giorgi, Chief of Staff of the R + D + i Agency.

Through these new supports, the national government continues to promote responses to the pandemic from the national Science and Technology system.

Background

In March 2020, within the framework of the global crisis that caused the pandemic, the “Coronavirus Unit” was formed, made up of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the R & D & I Agency and CONICET, with the aim of coordinate the capacities of the scientific and technological system to make available the potential of science and technology projects to face COVID-19.

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To this end, the IP COVID-19 Call was launched with the mission of guiding the Science and Technology system towards the needs associated with the pandemic and assigning more than 500 million pesos to projects aimed at strengthening health tools, the study on the different dimensions of the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus and the initial impulse of technology-based companies linked to products whose demand grew rapidly and significantly. In order to contribute to the improvement of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of the disease, the call was focused on proposals from actors with proven experience in the system and whose results were achievable in less than a year. The method of submitting ideas-project allowed the evaluation to focus on the quality and relevance of the proposals. The call aroused significant interest and received more than 900 initiatives.

Among the 84 projects that were financed are: chinstraps with antiviral properties, infrared thermometers, diagnostic tests, production of reagents for kits, surveillance of COVID-19 variants, treatments, environmental monitoring in sewage, hyperimmune equine serum, biosecure cabinets , automatic respirators and vaccines, among many others. The monitoring carried out by the R + D + i Agency on each project included both financial and operational assistance as well as technical support. To date, 20% of the projects have completed satisfactorily and the remainder have already completed 65% or more of the approved work program. In ten cases, budget reinforcements were granted in order to amplify the impact of the results obtained.

About the new calls

Window in vivo trials of Argentine COVID-19 vaccines

Objective: to promote national vaccine development initiatives that are in a position to start or end pre-clinical trials of in vivo vaccine candidates. It will be a requirement to have had support in the IP COVID call or to demonstrate equivalent background and results.

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Beneficiaries: public research institutions.

Financing: up to a maximum of $ 60 million pesos per initiative. Counterpart contributions will not be required.

Budget: $ 250 million pesos will be allocated for the total call.

Execution period: 18 months.

Date: opening in April 2021.

SARS-CoV-2 immunization strategies. Oriented Scientific and Technological Research Projects (PICTO)

Objective: to promote research projects that design and develop strategies aimed at providing lasting immunity against SARS-CoV-2, especially that contribute to the development of vaccines for the coronavirus.

Beneficiaries: science and technology research groups with proven backgrounds located in institutions of the scientific-technological system.

Financing: each initiative may request a maximum of up to $ 7.5 million pesos. The Agency will finance up to 90% of the amount of the requested subsidy.

Execution period: 18 months.

Budget: $ 75 million pesos will be allocated for the total call.

Dates: opening in May and closing in June 2021.

Studies on the diagnosis and treatment of sequelae caused by SARS-CoV-2. Oriented Scientific and Technological Research Projects (PICTO)

Objective: to promote research projects in the field of health sciences for the generation of new knowledge focused on studies on the sequelae (diagnosis, follow-up and treatment) caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Beneficiaries: science and technology research groups with proven antecedents, based in institutions of the scientific-technological system. For this call, the recipients are ad hoc networks of research teams in Health Sciences and associated fields. For the presentation of projects, a network of researchers must be formed, made up of at least four research groups based in different institutions and regions of the country.

Financing: each initiative may request a maximum of up to $ 10 million pesos. The Agency will finance up to 90% of the total amount of the requested grant.

Execution period: 18 months.

Budget: $ 75 million pesos will be allocated for the total call.

Dates: opening in June and closing in July 2021.

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