On 17 February 2021, the EC presented a Communication to launch a European bio-defence preparedness plan called “HERA Incubator” to address the emerging threat of coronavirus variants with an envelope of €225 million.
The HERA Incubator will serve to detect new COVID-19 variants, provide incentives to develop new COVID-19 vaccines, speed up the approval process for these vaccines and ensure scaling up manufacturing capacities.
According to the Commission, the following key actions of the HERA Incubator will provide a basis, and lead to the establishment, of the currently proposed European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA):
1. Detect, analyse and assess variants:
2. Speed up regulatory approval of adapted vaccines:
3. Ramp up production of COVID-19 vaccines:
The launch of the HERA incubator can be seen as a pilot phase of the creation of the new European Agency; European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) proposed by the European Commission in early February 2021. The creation of a new agency is a long process, with first a consultation process which will very probably be followed up by a proposal for a Regulation only by Q4 2021, followed by a legislative process which may take several months and not end before end 2022.
Whereas the Commission’s plan doesn’t extensively explore the full potential Computer Modelling and Simulation (CM&S) could bring to the HERA, High Performance Computing is recognised as a useful enabler for data gathering on new variants and vaccine development. The Commission hence establishes the consideration that qualitative data collection will be key in advancing research on the front of tackling infectious disease outbreaks, and that this goes hand in hand with computing.
It is also interesting to note that the creation of the HERA Incubator and the establishment of a new Agency (HERA), reflects inspiration from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), as an agency that had not necessarily been required by the EU until now. With its creation of the new Agency is widely supported by the Commission, the new HERA will seek to strengthen the EU’s preparedness and response to serious cross-border health threats and the EU’s global position on bio-defense, by having at its disposal significant research and development resources.
By launching the HERA incubator, the Commission is proposing a plan to lay the groundwork to undertake the urgent activities on bio-defence preparedness, including actions on the coronavirus and its emerging variants. It provides a forecast on what the upcoming new HERA’s activities could be busy with, while remaining strongly focused on the urgent needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.