VivaTech 2021: Agnès Pannier-Runacher calls for new EU medical research agency in wake of COVID

Agnès Pannier-Runacher has played a key role in France's effort to vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19.
Agnès Pannier-Runacher has played a key role in France's effort to vaccinate its citizens against COVID-19.   -  Copyright  Ludovic Marin/AP
By Pascale Davies  & Tom Bateman

French Minister for Industry Agnès Pannier-Runacher has called for the creation of a pan-European agency that would fund research into vaccines.

Speaking to Euronews Next at the VivaTech 2021 conference in Paris, Pannier-Runacher said America's rapid vaccine rollout had demonstrated the effectiveness of the United States' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

She added that Europe should follow its example.

"We need to be at the level of Europe, because France only is not so interesting. It's only 67 million people. Europe, it's 450 million people. So, it's a huge market," she said.

"You can have direct discussions with companies who develop innovations, R&D, and in the case of a pandemic, vaccination or treatment. And this is something that we support as a government at the European level, the equivalent of a BARDA".

A US government agency, BARDA funds research and production of treatments – like COVID vaccines – considered to be priorities for national health security.

In February last year, it partnered with French drugmaker Sanofi to fund work on an as-yet unreleased coronavirus vaccine.

'Transfer tech to private companies faster'

Pannier-Runacher also told Euronews Next that European governments should support biomedical development by transferring the rights to research and technology to private companies.

"I believe we have the right level of academics at the level of researchers, universities, teams. It's rather good. What we need is to accelerate technology transfers to companies and to those companies to develop quickly," she said.

The minister said she believed European governments also needed to do more to encourage private capital to invest in biomedical research on the continent.

"In the United States, you can increase capital quite easily. In France and in Europe, it's more difficult to find the venture capital and the experts to assess the quality of your projects, to trust you, to put cash in it and to develop the business," Pannier-Runacher said.

"I believe that the French tech is now really a success and the government has supported French tech for ten years now. And this is a huge success. But the key question is scaling up."

Watch the full interview in the video above.