Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

To assess the current state of European research into vaccines and viruses and to propose an action plan for research to improve the position of European industry and to pursue the most promising activities at the European level.


The task force on vaccines and virus-based diseases is one of several established on the initiative of Commissioners Cresson (Research, education and training), Bangemann (Industry, telecommunications and information technologies) and Kinnock (Transport) for the purpose of developing priorities for research projects of common industrial interest. The task forces are focused on clearly defined areas and are aimed at, firstly, identifying, and then, coordinating, the research efforts being made in each area (at both private and public level) in the individual Member States and within the framework of relevant European Union programmes, particularly research carried out under the Fourth RTD Framework Programme.

The rationale behind the task forces is to redress the current situation where only 13% of public research budgets are allocated to research projects involving European cooperation, as opposed to 87% for strictly national research. Greater coordination between the Member States' research activities is necessary to reduce expensive and wasteful duplication of effort and will, ultimately, improve Europe's industrial competitiveness in the global economy. The first task forces were set up in early 1995 and cover six areas: multimedia educational software; the car of the future; the new generation of aeroplanes; vaccines and virus-based diseases; the train of the future; and transport intermodality. The list is open-ended and new task forces may be established in the future. These may cover such issues as clean technologies, information society applications, construction materials, the maritime industry, etc.

With regard to vaccines, the United States currently holds 50% of the global market (compared to the 28% stake held by Europe) which, in economic terms, could reach ECU 6 billion by the end of the century. The largest research effort on vaccines (which take on average 12 years to develop and require an investment of around ECU 250 million) is made by the US government and large US companies who, due to a lucrative domestic market where prices are high, have a major competitive advantage.

In order to improve Europe's positioning in the global market and to consolidate and expand the impressive performance of the European pharmaceutical industry, the task force has two main duties: the first is to assess the state-of-play of European research into vaccines and viruses; the second is to propose an action plan for research to improve the position of European industry and to pursue the most promising activities at the European level.

Following consultations with industry to identify the technological problems, needs and priorities, agreement has been reached on the following:

- Research on vaccines and production needs to be improved;
- New vaccines or treatments are needed for AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and maleria;
- The emergence of new viruses has shown the importance of setting up watch dog and rapid action structures;
- Improvements are necessary to enhance the effectiveness of immunity afforded by vaccines.

On the basis of further meetings with industry and other actors, a new initiative is to be proposed aimed at launching projects of common industrial interest, linking industry, national institutions and the scientific and medical community. This is expected to be completed by the end of 1995.


No details are available for this section.


As a first step, the task forces are responsible for assessing the situation in their specific domain, preparing an inventory of actual research efforts and defining priorities for research following intensive consultations with industry and users. On the basis of this analysis, a scheme for combining priority projects with the relevant specific programmes under the Fourth Framework Programme will be drawn up.

At present, the task forces do not, themselves, manage or fund projects; they will, nonetheless, be able to influence the content of the remaining calls for proposals under the Fourth Framework Programme and the structure and content of the Fifth Framework Programme.

Eventually, the task forces could make use of various provisions contained in the R&D title of the Treaty on European Union: Article 130k which authorizes the establishment of supplementary R&D programmes involving the participation of certain Member States only, Article 130l which provides for Community participation in R&D programmes undertaken by several Member States or Article 130n which permits the Community to establish joint undertakings for research purposes.
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