NRP 78 "Covid-19"

Providing health care recommendations and innovative solutions to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

​On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Today, the current Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose significant challenges for public health and the economy. Despite multinational efforts in research and development, our knowledge of the Covid-19-causing coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is still limited. There is no established, specific therapy available yet, and off-label testing of existing medicines for Covid-19 is ongoing in randomised clinical trials. Hence, there is an urgent need for biomedical and clinical research to gain a better understanding of this newly identified virus and its future evolution as well as to understand and contain the spread, address the further development of putative subsequent waves of infection, and develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Authorities, politicians, health professionals, citizens and public institutions depend on accurate scientific information for evidence-based decisions to protect the public’s health and enable the normalisation of public life and the economy.

Mandated by the Federal Council, the SNSF is launching the present call for a National Research Programme (NRP) to advance the understanding of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the clinical management and public health response, the development of vaccines, and therapeutics and diagnostics. This new NRP aims to capitalise and build on existing national research competencies, to channel and bundle them into more extensive projects, and to foster multidisciplinary collaborations and sharing of data and results between scientists, health professionals and health authorities. The goal is to support innovative projects that can achieve results as soon as possible and to submit appropriate recommendations and solutions to combat the current Covid-19 crisis in Switzerland.

The NRP comprises four research modules:

  • Module 1: Basic aspects of Sars-CoV-2 biology, pathogenicity and immunogenicity
  • Module 2: New approaches in Covid-19 epidemiology and disease prevention
  • Module 3: Covid-19 vaccine, drug and diagnostics development
  • Module 4: Clinical Covid-19 research and therapeutic interventions

The NRP will operate with an overall budget of 20 million Swiss francs and its research projects will run for two years. Unlike in other NRPs, there will be no two-stage selection procedure. Full proposals must be submitted directly. Projects will be selected by an international panel of experts based on a peer–review process. All proposals must be submitted by 25 May 2020 via the mySNF platform.

Detailed information on the participation requirements and the submission procedure are published in the call document.

Proposals that show a high potential for innovative solutions will be given preference. Researchers are encouraged to work in teams of experts across relevant disciplines to address these multi-dimensional questions. This programme strives to ensure that Swiss research is well-coordinated with international special initiatives or measures on Covid-19, so as to ensure the elaboration of appropriate measures in Switzerland. To achieve this, applicants have to indicate in the application the use of international networks in the fields relevant to the programme or the use of results from global research efforts (leverage effect).

The SNSF will forward the project proposals to international experts for evaluation. The funding awarded will typically range from 300,000 to 2 million Swiss francs. The SNSF may approve larger grants if the planned research necessitates costly methods and approaches that justify the need for a higher budget.

The SNSF will endeavor to communicate its funding decisions by the end of July 2020 so that researchers can start work on 1t August 2020.

Demarcation between the Special Call on Coronavirus and the NRP 78 “Covid-19”

The aims, the scope and the thematic orientation of the NRP 78 “Covid-19” are in many aspects complementary to the Special Call on Coronaviruses. Nevertheless, parts of the research proposed in projects submitted to the Special Call on Coronaviruses might also fit into a NRP project and contribute to the overarching goals of the National Research Programme.

Therefore, the SNSF has decided that applications to the Special Call on Coronaviruses that fulfill the criteria regarding objectives and scope of NRP 78 “Covid-19” may also be submitted under the NRP 78 “Covid-19” call. Because of the differences between the two calls this will require adaptation, scaling up or merging of several focused ideas. The submission deadline for the NRP call will be later than the decisions concerning the Special Call on Coronaviruses. This means that:

(1) Approved projects in the Special Call on Coronaviruses will nevertheless start as of 1 June 2020. If also successful in the NRP call, the remaining funds from the Special Call on Coronaviruses will be retracted by the SNSF and the project stopped, once the NRP 78 “Covid-19” project starts.

(2) Rejected projects in the Special Call on Coronaviruses can be submitted to the NRP 78 “Covid-19” call, if the re-submitted application is a significantly modified version of the rejected application. Please note that only a few days will be available for the revision of the projects.

(3) Should funds become available as a result of the transfer of projects from the Special Call on Coronaviruses to the NRP 78 “Covid-19”, the SNSF will consider approving additional projects in the Special Call on Coronaviruses that could not be funded in a first step alone due to financial constraints.

Special Call on Coronaviruses

Submission deadline

25 May 2020 17:00h Swiss local time


Division Programme