Within the COVID-19 Programme, a total of 40 projects have now been awarded funding. In addition, 12 more projects will receive funding after additional administrative steps. In this programme, research will start that focuses on the effects of the measures against the coronavirus pandemic. This concerns a substantial financial injection in the Dutch research field. With this funding, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, together with ZonMw and the Dutch Research Council (NWO), is focusing on the rapid introduction of innovative measures that emerge from these projects.
An effective approach to the coronavirus pandemic is associated with many knowledge requirements and research questions. The COVID-19 Programme has three focus areas:
Within focus area 1, “Predictive diagnostics and treatment”, 17 of the 22 eligible projects were awarded funding. Several of these projects focus on new or existing therapies and their modes of action. Other projects focus, for example, on acquiring insights into the microbiome, immunity, predictive parameters and individualised treatments.
An example of such a project is: A phase 2 clinical study necessary for the clinical development of the drug lanadelumab against COVID-19 from Dr R. Brüggemann and Dr F. van de Veerdonk from Radboudumc. In this project, it will be investigated whether the intravenous administration of lanadelumab can prevent and reduce the need for the external administration of oxygen – necessary due to lung oedema – during the COVID-19 infection.
Besides the 22 projects stated, 5 projects within focus area 1 will do research into the development of new or broader applications of existing animal-free innovations. The ZonMw programme “More Knowledge with Fewer Animals” and the Dutch Society for Replacement of Animal Testing made more than 2 million euros available for this. The ultimate aim is more relevant health and healthcare research for people.
Within focus area 2, “Care and prevention”, 20 of the 25 eligible projects were awarded funding. These projects focus on the organisation of care and vulnerable citizens. In addition, there is specific attention for care providers. The focus is on:
For example, there is the project “TRACE II: Patient outcomes after postponed elective operations during the COVID-19 pandemic” from Dr D. de Korte-de Boer and Prof. Wolfgang Buhre (Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Medicine at Maastricht University Medical Center+). In this project, the effect of postponing non-acute operations during the COVID-19 pandemic will be investigated by a consortium of 10 institutions, including 4 university hospitals and 5 peripheral hospitals.
Within focus area 2, five projects in the programme “Palliantie. More than care” are eligible for funding. Three of those have now been awarded funding. The projects focus on support and grief counselling for the family and friends of people who have died. There is also attention for the impact of social isolation due to COVID-19 on intra- and extramural care for people with dementia in the palliative phase.
The COVID-19 Programme has been funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and NWO. For this action and research programme a total of 40 million euros has been made available for grants for practice and research projects. At the end of August, the granting decision will be taken for the proposals from focus area 3 “Societal dynamics”. All projects will start in September 2020.
The coronavirus crisis has had a considerable impact, also on public health and healthcare. There is a huge demand for new knowledge and practical solutions to limit the negative consequences of the pandemic. Research is needed to learn from the negative and positive experiences, both now and in the longer term. Therefore, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and in collaboration with NWO, we prepared an action and research programme in March 2020 that, amongst other things, resulted in the COVID-19 Programme. The speed with which this was realised was an enormous challenge for the grant applicants, NWO and us.