A dozen research and development programmes aimed at reinforcing the healthcare response to the coronavirus are currently running in Hungary based on Hungarian professional knowledge and capacities, thanks to over 2.3 billion forints (EUR 6.26 million) in government funding. The heads and representatives of these research groups reviewed the progress and expected results of these improvements during a videoconference today, with the participation of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The Coronavirus Research Action Group is directing several, parallel basic and applied research projects with the coordination of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology. The goal is to gain greater knowledge of the pathogen, examine infection mechanisms, discover possible preventative measures, and the development of effective medication, methods of treatment, therapeutic agents and equipment. The projects are in various phases of preparation, and are already being executed in several cases. The National Office for Research, Development and Innovation is handling these issues using an accelerated procedure based on individual funding requests charged to the budget of the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund.

In his introductory speech during the videoconference, Minister for Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said: “The Ministry already regarded the healthcare economy as one of the country’s four strategic sectors of industry prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Hungary has suitable capacities and major traditions within this sector, and the innovation of technologies make healthcare more efficient. The healthcare sector is also at the focus of economic strategy and industrial development goals in view of its innovative and research-intensive fields, the high added value it generates, and its highly-trained workforce”.

The Minister stressed that the coronavirus pandemic has not only drawn attention to the heroic efforts of people working within the healthcare sector, but has also made it very clear that the country must become capable of being self-sufficient to the greatest possible extent. “In the interests of protecting the health of the Hungarian people, it is vital that we are able to act in the interests of prevention, and of providing suitable care and treatment to patients, on our own steam, building on world-class Hungarian professional expertise. Within this field too, the solution is innovation and successful research and development, the value of which can primarily be measured in human lives. As a factor that supports the rebooting of the economy, it is also worth mentioning that products which are successful in practice could also enable Hungarian enterprises to enter the international market and reinforce their competitive status”, Mr. Palkovics explained.

As previously reported, a consortium has been set up to develop a therapeutic agent to combat the coronavirus with the involvement of university, research institute and private sector participants. With the involvement of the members of the consortium, Hungarian pharmaceutical company Richter Gedeon is producing a fusion protein that neutralises and destroys cells that have been infected with the virus within the patient’s body.

The goal of the research that is ongoing at the University of Szeged is the mathematical modelling and analysis of the spread of the virus in Hungary, and the preparation of a prognosis. In the interests of slowing the spread of the virus and reducing pressure on the healthcare system, the research is supporting decision-making based on proof and calculations. In the interests of precisely modelling the spread of the infection, experts are collecting data on relationship and travel habits before and after the virus outbreak. Anyone can help the research by filling out an online questionnaire (available here: https://covid.sed.hu/) in just a few minutes, and over 150 thousand people filled in the form in the first week alone.

With the involvement of the Eötvös Lóránd Research Network, the development of a highly effective inhibitor has begun to treat and possible prevent the coronavirus infection. The hyperacute serum therapy that is also under development plans to use the antibodies that are produced in the blood of people who have overcome a coronavirus infection to treat patients. Other research projects are in preparation with relation to the development of agents that could slow and curb the spread of the infection, medical equipment to support hospital care, and expanding Hungary’s production capacities.

In summary, Mr. Palkovics said that the participants of Hungarian research & development and innovation are also proving their outstanding professional knowledge, capabilities and rapidity during the state of emergency. “Based on the projects that have already begun, we may come to the reassuring conclusion that the skills and reaction speed of Hungarian experts, institutions and enterprises are making Hungary capable of successful healthcare protection”, the Minister underlined.