EU strengthens flu efforts

The European Commission announced this week that it will fund 17 new scientific projects into avian and pandemic influenza with 28.3 million euros under the European Union’s Sixth Research Framework Program. The new scientific research projects cover human and animal health, and address research needs identified by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The EU’s new funding initiative allocated to these projects comes in addition to the 21 million euros already made available under previous Framework Programs. The total sum is evenly divided between human and animal health projects. On the human health side the projects will cover research on better understanding of how the flu virus works as well as clinical research on vaccine development. The projects addressing animal health will cover vaccines, better diagnosis and early-warning systems, increased knowledge of the bird flu virus itself, technology transfer to third countries and a network for monitoring migratory birds. Overseas assistance Nine of the selected projects include partners from countries outside the European Union, such as Russia, China, Vietnam, Australia, the US and Canada, several of which have been directly affected by recent outbreaks of avian influenza. In the scientific research projects are also involved several small and medium-sized European companies. Greek scientists and domestic research organizations are involved in four international scientific projects. Their aim will be, among others, to organize technical workshop in order to facilitate technology transfer particularly in the field of molecular diagnostic tools for pathogen detection and differentiation, to reinforce epidemiological analysis for monitoring and modeling of avian influenza especially and to respond to outbreaks with infectious diseases of livestock in general.