EU to create private-public bio-defence preparedness plan

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FILE PHOTO: Georgia's President Zourabichvili meets EU Commission President von der Leyen in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will seek to create a bio-defence preparedness programme in the form of a public-private partnership, to prepare against the next big health crisis, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said.

The 27-nation bloc, like the rest of the world, is struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed tens of thousands and prompted economic lockdowns across Europe causing a deep recession.

"Europe will propose to create a bio-defence preparedness programme. This will be a public-private partnership," she said at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Von der Leyen said the programme would seek to prepare the EU before the next pandemic hits by seeking to discover and prepare for known and emerging pathogens, and then developing and manufacturing vaccines at scale to respond to them.

The scheme would secure long-term and predictable funding and bring together cutting-edge tech-companies and blue-chip manufacturers, as well as regulators such as the European Medicines Agencies or the European Commission.

"We know that preparedness is everything. And we know that in a pandemic there is no time to lose. We need this new public-private approach to detect earlier, develop together and manufacture faster at scale," von der Leyen said.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, editing by Marine Strauss)