Four projects led by local researchers to broaden data on infectious diseases and research innovative solutions have been awarded up to €3.7 million in grants from the COVID-19 R&D Fund. 

Announced last April, the scheme was approved by the European Commission under the State aid Temporary Framework, with the aim of supporting research related to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In a press conference on Thursday, the Malta Enterprise and the Malta Council for Science and Technology announced the four projects granted funding under the scheme and said that work among researchers has been ongoing for three months. 

TargetID is carrying out genome sequencing on COVID-19 patients to single out what about the virus causes the severity of infection and utilise the data to create new medicines that actively fights against infectious diseases. 

The Coveplex project is undertaking a study of COVID-19 antibodies to see how the human body is changing and reacting in response to the virus and how vaccines are working to attack the virus. 

The ACE project is looking at the ACE2 gene, which is the reception that the COVID-19 virus is using to cells, and using genetics to manipulate the receptor to see if a treatment that can be effective against every type of coronavirus can be developed. 

The Sanitas project is looking at solutions from activated plasma and to see how substances can be utilised to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Enterprise Minister Miriam Dalli said she has always been a “big fan” of research and innovation and that Malta needed to invest seriously in the sector to make great strides.

“We are looking at this sort of research not as an academic niche but as an opportunity to merge academic and entrepreneurship,” she said. 

“I appeal to researchers to take their studies and data further by taking the next step - commercialise your work. We want to see more commercial projects on this level because this has the good potential of becoming a different niche for our country.”

Research and Innovation Minister Owen Bonnici said that the government is committed to investing in the sector as a qualitative and sustainable avenue for growth. 

“We are making this effort because the best way to develop our country is to invest in talent and create a robust ecosystem of innovation,” he said. 

“But it’s not enough to have talent. Talent alone is like having a seed but nowhere to plant it. To blossom, you have to invest in academics and turn it into something that actually makes a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

 

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