IAEA COVID-19 project draws more than $28 million in funding

May 15, 2020, 11:24AMNuclear News

A health worker at the IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories in Austria packs a COVID-19 support equipment package, which includes personal protective equipment, PCR machines, reagents, and laboratory consumables. Photo: D. Calma/IAEA

An initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency to help nearly 120 countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic has received a financial boost from member states and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.

The IAEA announced on May 13 that Takeda, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tokyo, donated 500 million yen (about US$4.7 million). Two days earlier, the IAEA announced that pledges from more than 10 member nations totaled €22 million (about US$23.8 million).

What it means: The funds will enable the IAEA to assist hundreds of laboratories around the world in the use of a nuclear-derived testing technique called real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (real-time RT-PCR). The method is currently the fastest and most accurate way to detect the virus causing COVID-19, according to the IAEA.

Who donated: Financial support came from several member states, including US$11 million from the United States, €4 million (US$4.3 million) from Japan, Can$5 million (US$3.5 million) from Canada, and €2 million (US$2.2 million) from Norway. Three nations—Germany, the Netherlands, and the Russian Federation—each pledged €500,000 (US$541,000), while Finland added €200,000 (US$216,000). Undisclosed contributions came from Australia and other nations. In addition, China has announced in-kind support worth US$2 million.

Takeda’s commitment is one of the largest-ever private-sector donations to the IAEA, the agency said. Takeda announced in early March that it would provide testing and biosafety equipment to countries requesting it, as well as expert advice and technical guidance.

The details: The IAEA assistance includes ready-to-run testing packages with personal protective equipment, PCR machines, laboratory consumables, and diagnostic kits. The IAEA also offers technical expertise and guidance and organizes webinars to train health professionals around the world.

The packages are being dispatched to countries in batches, taking into consideration current global supply market and transport limitations. The IAEA reports that about 20 RT-PCR machines have been delivered to end users so far, including the nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Iran, Latvia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Thailand, and Togo. The equipment is ready for immediate use upon arrival.

This assistance in tackling COVID-19 is delivered through the IAEA’s technical cooperation program, which supports the peaceful application of nuclear technology in areas such as human and animal health. This partnership is the IAEA’s largest technical cooperation project—both in terms of the amount of funding and the number of beneficiary countries—since the Vienna-based organization was founded in 1957.

They said it: “We are very grateful for the swift and generous contributions from several member states and for their confidence in the IAEA’s ability to deliver emergency support around the world,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. “The IAEA is an important partner to countries in battling this pandemic.”

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