As the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe continues to escalate, top healthcare organizations across the continent are doing everything in their power to assist companies in developing a treatment. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU's medical regulator, announced Friday that it would offer free scientific advice and assistance to drugmakers that are working on COVID-19 vaccines or treatments.

It was a significant announcement considering that the EMA typically charges from around $48,000 to $97,000 for scientific advice. The agency provided a dedicated email address for inquiries and urged biotech companies to reach out should they need assistance.

Two scientists having a discussion while looking at a computer screen.

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"In a first round of discussions, EMA can provide preliminary informal comments and feedback on development. This will then allow the agency to identify products which are mature enough to benefit from fast-track scientific advice, to guarantee best use of this too," said the agency.

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There are around 179,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the world at the moment, and the death toll has topped 7,000. Although the number of new infections in China seems to have peaked and declined to below 100 a day, Europe has seen an explosion in cases. Italy has around 28,000 confirmed COVID-19 patients, with more than 3,000 diagnosed Monday, and the country's healthcare system is struggling to cope.

While there are a number of companies developing treatments for the novel coronavirus, most aren't going to be available for a while, even if they prove effective. Gilead (GILD -0.12%) has an antiviral drug called remdesivir currently undergoing phase 3 trials as a COVID-19 treatment in China. Moderna (MRNA -0.41%) is also attempting to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine -- its phase 1 clinical trial began Monday.