Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ERINHA-Advance (Advancing European Research Infrastcuture on Highly Pathogenic Agents)
Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30
Expanding ERINHA membership and international cooperation
One of the biggest successes of the first period is the finalization of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven’s associate membership in February 2020. The Medical University of Graz is currently preparing its accession.
With regards to cooperation, links with initiatives such as CEPI, GLOPID-R, EVAg and ECRAID were reinforced and ERINHA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Vaccine Initiative. Moreover, relevant facilities in Central & Eastern Europe (CEE), but also outside Europe (South Africa, Australia, USA), have been mapped and approached for future collaborations.
ERINHA’s pilot trans-national access activities
ERINHA-Advance focuses on the provision of high quality research services to the scientific community through TransNational Access (TNA) programmes dedicated to HID. Participants developed all the tools and documents required to launch a call for proposals, evaluate the applications and prepare for the provision of ERINHA’s services. The partners defined the scientific scope of the TNA programme as well as the rules guiding the evaluation process, and developed specific guidelines with all the information necessary to prepare an application. The first call for proposals was launched on 15 October 2019, and resulted in the selection of two projects. Moreover, a special emergency call for proposals dedicated to SARS CoV 2 and Covid 19 research launched on 27 May 2020 to contribute to the fight against the pandemic (1).
Unlocking the innovation potential of the research infrastructure
Here, the main objectives are to create a sustainable collaboration with the industrial sector and initiate innovative pilot projects with industrial partners. To this end, steps were taken to set up a Board of Industrial Representatives (BIR) to help ERINHA develop a strategy for engaging with the private sector. Four companies have agreed to join the BIR so far, and the kick-off of the Board is planned to be held virtually. In addition, subcontractor Alcimed has initiated the update of ERINHA’s business plan and already delivered a draft list of new key private players with interest in research on highly infectious pathogens. Finally, advocacy and outreach actions, including a virtual partnering event and dissemination through relevant contact lists, contributed to increase the visibility of ERINHA’s services for industrial players. This resulted in several requests for high containment services from SMEs.
Strengthening the framework of ERINHA’s services
ERINHA-Advance aims to ensure the high quality and sustainability of ERINHA services by implementing a quality management system, an effective intellectual and property rights (IPR) policy, an ethical framework and a comprehensive data management plan. A Quality Management Working Group was established to review the Quality Management Systems in place at ERINHA partner facilities and develop a proposed Quality Management System for ERINHA. The contracting mechanisms necessary for service provision, as well as an IPR policy, have been drafted to be reviewed by all ERINHA members. A User Handbook and a set of Ethical Guidelines are ready for publication.
Capacity building & Communication
One of the main goals here is to develop training opportunities for ERINHA’s staff and for the scientific community. The CCU contacted the H2020 funded RItrain project for staff exchange and participated in the RI staff workshop. The development of the scientific training programme for future users is ongoing. The Lugar Center of Public Health Research in Tbilisi, Georgia, has shown high interest in this activity. In addition, during the first period of ERINHA-Advance, partners developed the Dissemination and Outreach plan, which defines ERINHA’s target communities and the key messages of the infrastructure. In accordance with this plan, several actions were conducted to increase ERINHA’s visibility:
- Sections dedicated to ERINHA-Advance and the TNA programme were developed on the ERINHA website.
- ERINHA Newsletter and Flashnews were disseminated to a broad list of stakeholders and published on the website.
- The CCU staff and partners communicated about ERINHA in several conferences (e.g. UN BTWC in Geneva, European Congress of Virology in Rotterdam, among others).
- Promotional tools were developed and distributed in relevant events.
(1) Specific task added to WP3 in the framework of the amendment request under preparation.