Leading French researchers say Global Fund's new strategy should parallel SDGs

The Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria will soon start designing a new strategy for the period after 2022. In an open editorial, five leading French researchers, including Nobel Laureate François Barré-Sinoussi, suggested the Global Fund more directly link its strategy with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The five prominent academics acknowledged the Global Fund's accomplishments in fighting the three global pandemics after which it's named but criticized what they see as a comparatively low contribution to efforts to strengthen health-care systems institutionally. In addition to more clear linkages with the SDGs, the Global Fund should also assume a leading role in renewing funding for global health operational research, according to the researchers. 

Editorial - The Lancet

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New EU research commissioner encourages member states to support increased funding for research

In an interview with Science|Business, the new European commissioner for research, Mariya Gabriel, said she hopes EU member states will support the proposed increase in research funding of €120 billion (US$133.3 billion) in the next long-term EU budget from 2021-2027. Gabriel called the funding "the best gift Europe could make for itself” and recognized the need to “remain mobilized until the last minute” to advocate for research funding in the long-term budget, the multiannual financial framework. 
Gabriel said she does not plan to reopen negotiations on the legislation for the proposed research framework program for 2021-2027, Horizon Europe. Member states and the European Parliament have already reached a provisional agreement on the program’s legislation, excluding final budget figures which will be decided as a part of the overall long-term budget agreement. 

News article - Science|Business

Australian researchers discover breakthrough in malaria transmission prevention

Australian researchers have identified a means of blocking transmission of the Falciparum strain of malaria.  This enables killing the parasite while it is present in red blood cells by inhibiting a specific enzyme Plasmepsin V. The discovery should allow the development of new preventative therapies, potentially blocking both sickness and transmission.

News article - SciDevNet

Norwegian-led Ebola vaccine development named one of the decade's most important research findings

National Geographic has named the Ebola vaccine one of the decade's 20 most important scientific achievements. Testing of the Ebola vaccine was initiated in response to the major 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa which swept the region, taking 11,300 lives.

At that time, the vaccine had already been researched, but had not been tested on humans. In 2015, Norway was leading the testing of the vaccine in the field, and many lives were saved. John-Arne Røttingen, managing director of the Research Council of Norway, led the work and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was among the first to fund the project. The project was a collaboration between governments and private foundations.

Article – Forskning (in Norwegian)

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Researchers call on EU leaders to protect health research budget for 2021-2027

Ahead of the December European Council summit, a European consortium of leading research institutions called on EU leaders to protect funding for health research in the next long-term budget. 'LifeTime', a new consortium of more than 90 academic and industry institutions that work on treating human cells during diseases, released a call to action for EU heads of state to promote efforts for innovative healthcare solutions. The group also called for a strong budget for Horizon Europe - the proposed next research framework program of the EU, to put the EU at the forefront of international health research. 
Call for Action website - LifeTime

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France extends debt relief contract with DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and France signed a Debt Reduction-Development Contract (C2D) on November 12, 2019, an extension of 2013 C2D between Paris and Kinshasa. The initial contract, valued at €106 million (US$118 million), was used to conduct numerous projects in the areas of governance, water, and sanitation, as well as education and vocational training. 

The second C2D, signed in November of 2019, is valued at €65 million (US$72 million) and extends those projects by allocating new resources to education (€25 million / US$27 million), vocational training (€10 million / US$11 million), governance (€17 million / US$18 million), health and water (€10 million / US$11 million), as well as to studies and supervision (€4 million / US$4 million). 

Press release - French Development Agency (AFD) 

EU doubles funding for DRC's Ebola epidemic

The EU announced it would provide an additional €50 million (US$55 million) in humanitarian assistance to help address the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on top of the €47 million (USD $51 million) it has already provided to humanitarian assistance organizations for this current outbreak since May 2018. The funding will mostly support health care in the DRC, with €40 million towards the provision of free and high-quality health care, including for malnutrition. The remaining amount will go toward improving food security and access to clean water. The EU is also providing experts, access to its humanitarian flight service, supporting vaccine development and research, and providing training in medical evaluations. 
The latest outbreak in the DRC has seen more than 3,000 people infected and has resulted in more than 2,000 deaths. 
This EU funding announcement closely followed a call for the EU to step up its role for the post-Ebola efforts by David Gressly, the United Nations’ Ebola emergency response coordinator. Gressly said that while the EU had provided some funding, it was not as much as some of the EU’s member states or the World Bank. However, the UN is in talks with the EU to play a key role post-crisis. Gressly also stressed that the UN is not only in the DRC for Ebola, and that funding is needed also for malaria, cholera, measles, and other diseases. 
Press release - European Commission

Finnish Council presidency proposes compromise draft deal on next long-term EU budget

The Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU proposed a compromise draft deal on the next long-term EU budget ahead of the December European Council meeting, where EU heads of state will provide guidance for the ongoing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations. The proposal, or ‘negotiating box’, includes budget figures for the 2021- 2027 MFF that represent 1.07% of EU gross national income (GNI). The Finnish proposal reduces the overall budget size while safeguarding the proportion of funding for cohesion and common agricultural policy. By contrast, it cuts the proportion of the budget going to development and increases it for research. 
The Finnish Council presidency proposal requests €103.2 billion in 2018 prices (USD $114.6 billion) for Heading 6, the budget area for all EU external action, and €75.5 billion in 2018 prices (US$83.8 billion) for the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), the primary development instrument proposed for the 2021-2027 MFF that includes the currently off-budget European Development Fund (EDF).
The negotiating box acknowledges that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” EU insiders suspect a final MFF deal will not be reached until the latter half of 2020 during the Germany presidency of the Council. 
News article - Euractiv
MFF Negotiating box - Finnish Council presidency

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New European Commission takes office, following election by Parliament

After a month-long delay, the new European Commission began its five-year term on December 1, 2019. The European Parliament approved Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s college of commissioners on November 27 with a stronger margin of support than former President Jean-Claude Juncker received in 2014. The Commission was largely backed by the three largest groups, the conservatives (EPP), liberals (Renew Europe), and social democrats (S&D). The official party line of the Greens was to abstain from the vote, although some did support von der Leyen’s Commission. EU heads of state then formally appointed the Commission.
The first female Commission President’s Commission also has the highest female representation in EU history. Von der Leyen had aimed for gender balance amongst the Commissioners but fell short by one. This is due to the MEPs rejecting three Commissioner candidates from Romania, Hungary, and France -- the most ever rejected -- which meant new nominees had to be selected. 
In her confirmation speech during the Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, Von der Leyen called for the EU to take a global leadership role as a responsible power, a champion for multilateralism, and a true partner to all countries. She highlighted the importance of climate action and the need for 'massive investment' in innovation and research. She called for a modernised long-term EU budget for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework. She mentioned the need for the EU to rediscover its 'competitive sustainability', including in its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 
Press release - European Parliament
Who’s who infographic - European Parliament

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EU’s Competitiveness Council finalizes position on 2021-2027 Horizon Europe research program

The Council of the EU agreed on its negotiating position, called a partial general approach, on the recitals and an annex for the legislation establishing the proposed 2021-2027 research framework program, Horizon Europe. This agreement means the Council can begin negotiations with the European Parliament on Horizon Europe as soon as an agreement is reached on the overall long-term EU budget, the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework. 
The annex included in the Council’s partial general approach outlines synergies with other EU programs to maximize the impact of research and innovation on society. The recitals in the partial general approach call for using R&I to address global challenges, including the Sustainable Development Goals; for EU member states to increase their public and private investment in R&I; for adhering to the principles of ‘Open Science, Open Innovation, Open to the World’ in the implementation of the program to ensure excellence and impact; for supporting all stages of research; and for strengthening cooperation between European Partnerships and private and/or public sector partners at the international level.
The Horizon Europe proposal includes a proposed ‘Global Health Partnership’ to fund late-stage clinical trials for poverty-related diseases impacting sub-Saharan Africa. 
Meeting page - Council of the EU
Full text of partial general approach - Council of the EU

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