In light of the urgent need for research in the context of the global health crisis, ANR has deployed, from the beginning of the crisis and throughout 2020, a wide-ranging system to support the national research effort and to contribute to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) and the REACTing network, ANR launched a Flash call for projects from 6 to 23 March 2020. It aimed to support research projects lasting 18 months or less, on four priorities identified from WHO guidelines: epidemiological and translational studies, pathophysiology of the disease, infection prevention and control measures, ethics and social science. As of March 25, 2020, 44 projects assessed as urgent have been funded to accelerate the start of their research. At the end of the evaluation process, 106 projects were selected for funding with a total budget of € 17.6 million, among the 259 eligible proposals submitted to the Flash call, i.e. a selection rate of 40.9%.
In line with this call for projects, ANR launched an "RA-Covid-19" call, open continuously from 16 April to 28 October 2020, to support research-action projects lasting 3 to 12 months in these four areas, and in a 5th area dedicated to the global issues of the epidemic. In the context of the 17 evaluation sessions of the RA-Covid-19 call, 128 projects were progressively selected, for a total budget of € 14.6 million, out of 614 eligible proposals submitted, i.e. a selection rate of 20.7%.
A total of 234 projects were funded through these two calls, with an overall budget of € 32.2 million. In addition to the MESRI emergency fund of € 16 million and an ANR funding of € 6.5 million, these calls have benefited from a significant co-financing contribution of € 9.7 million from several partners. The Foundation for Medical Research, the Fondation de France and six regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie, Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire) have teamed up with ANR to coordinate actions to support research on the Covid-19 pandemic. The two calls enabled the funding and rapid start-up of research projects on various topics: characterisation of the virus, associated diseases, patterns of contamination and dissemination in populations, development of patient therapeutic management methods, exploration of vaccine strategies, but also the analysis of perceptions, behaviours, or the conditions for the implementation of measures and their efficiency.
In the face of changing health conditions and the need to continue supporting the national research effort, on 18 December 2020, ANR launched a Covid-19 Resilience call for projects, open until 2 March 2021, targeting research topics still unknown in the summer of 2020, such as the impact of Covid-19 on mental health or "Long Covid". The results of the call will be published in April 2021.
Beyond these specific calls, ANR has also made Covid-19 a priority in the Generic Call for Proposals (AAPG) 2021, launched initiatives in international cooperation and adapted the timetable of its various calls to allow coordinators to submit their proposals in the necessary time frame.
Virus biology, immune response characterisation, development of diagnostic tests, search for antiviral molecules, modelling of the spread of SARS-CoV-2, protection, organisation of hospital and care services, medical ethics, analysis of perceptions and behaviours, management measures and public policies, social, economic and geopolitical issues, etc.: projects funded under the Flash and RA-Covid-19 calls cover a wide variety of research themes.