This action supports the policy priority to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and to enhance preparedness for future health emergencies with the particular emphasis on intelligence gathering to support the timely provision of medical countermeasures. It implements the EU4Health Programme’s general objective of protecting people in the Union from serious cross-border threats to health and strengthening the responsiveness of health systems and coordination among the Member States to cope with serious cross-border threats to health (Article 3, point (b)) through the specific objectives defined in Article 4, points (b) and (c), of Regulation (EU) 2021/522.
This action aims to establish a pilot network of top-class laboratories and research institutes that have the critical expertise and capacities to provide the information needed in the shortest possible timeframe and to support HERA in identifying emergent pathogens and ensuring the availability of medical countermeasures for improved health preparedness and response.Scope:
In preparedness time, the network will provide data, information and knowledge for HERA’s threat assessments and intelligence gathering function relevant to medical countermeasures. Its activities will focus on the health threats arising at global level including those that have not been included in the priority list developed by HERA. The tasks will include at least: operating and maintaining the network of participating laboratories and research institutes, supporting HERA’s assessment of health threats and intelligence gathering in the area of medical countermeasures, pro-actively running the detection and biological characterisation of emerging pathogens, rapid identification of relevant medical countermeasures and enhancing global cooperation.
Activities should draw on relevant intelligence from animal, environmental and public health (One Health) surveillance and other relevant areas.
In times of emergency, the network will inform HERA’s decision making with respect to medical countermeasures by providing a timely, targeted, and tailored input on the identified health threat. This will include: collecting global intelligence including through biological samples; carrying out specific emergency studies mandated by HERA, including biological characterisation, providing specific medical countermeasures, options for diagnosis, prevention and treatment and provide ad-hoc in-country response support. The network will also activate critical surge capacities at Union and global level to allow rapid and effective response during crisis times.
All these activities will be defined and carried out taking into account of the EU reference laboratories to be established under Article 15 of the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on serious cross border health threats, and in close collaboration with ECDC, in particular its activities under Article 5 (surveillance network), Article 8 (early warning and response system) and 10 (identification of emerging health threats) of Regulation (EC) No 851/2004 (ECDC Regulation), and the planned future network of EU reference laboratories and activities under other relevant EU policy areas (e.g. One Health) to ensure complementarities and avoid overlap and duplication.Expected Impact:
This action is expected to result in the following outcomes:
a) in the short-term, a sustainable, efficient and high capacity laboratory network (consisting in one or more existing EU laboratories with a structure allowing the widest possible geographical and global coverage e.g. having branches or associated members in several countries and continents) that addresses HERA’s needs notably in terms of intelligence gathering;
b) in the short/medium-term, established and optimised procedures and means such as key infrastructure, resources, policies and procedures for the network preparedness operations and rapid response in crisis times, to work in emergency mode for a readily available network in case a public health emergency is declared;
c) in the medium/long-term, dedicated assessments of health threats and related countermeasures and intelligence gathering supporting HERA’s tasks during preparedness times including biological characterisation.
d) in the medium/long-term, contribution to extend and reinforce the global outreach of the pilot network by sharing of relevant data and analysis, and providing advice, reports, country support missions, etc;
e) in the long-term, contribution to enhanced medical countermeasures preparedness to timely and efficiently respond to future cross-border health threats.
This action will provide the Commission with information to support the decision making as regards the extension (geographical and pathogens prioritisation) and options for potential institutionalisation of the HERA laboratory network in the medium/long term.