COVID-19 outbreak caught by surprise also the Back-Up project, but the partners reacted promptly and demonstrated that science is fundamental while dealing with pandemic.
Many of the project partners have a prominent role in healthcare-related research, and they actively fought against the COVID-19 pandemic, and to reduce its direct and indirect impacts on patients and society.
Although those actions are only tangentially related to the main topic of the Back-UP project, given the worldwide importance of this extraordinary situation we would to report some initiatives led by the partners to cope with the new challenges raised by COVID-19.
“We are not only a skillful consortium, but also generous and ready for the action”, states Project Coordinator Helios de Rosario.
Genos has been heavily involved in research actions that deal with the biology of the virus and its interaction with the human organism, and also very active in social media campaigns, disseminating novel findings about it.
Gordan Lauc, CEO at GENOS declares: ”Professors Markotić, Gorink and I just published a short story on herd innate protection against SARS-CoV-2. We underlined the importance of the humidity on the mucosal barrier during the suppression of viral progression. Actually, dehydration of mucosal barriers is frequent in heated spaces, and maybe one of the main reasons why respiratory infection shows significant seasonality. Glycans are essential for infectivity of most bacteria and viruses, but this is more difficult to study than proteins.”
The Prirodoslovno-matematički fakultet at University of Split is also a part of Covid-19 efforts through FenStats Working Group for COVID-19, which has member from 14 countries in order to handle a proper staticasl data treatment and deliver solid scientific advice for guiding Governments (either in a national or European level) to implement policies about the pandemic.
“One focus (at least in the short term) is to improve the comparability of relevant health statistics (especially causes of death). In addition, social and economic consequences of the pandemic are also mentioned as areas of interest”, says Ivo Ugrina from Split.
This group will devote itself to statistical models, software packages and other research topics, even if only with the aim of making them available for broader application. The same goes for access to data and statistics.
Karolinska Institute has created a COVID-19 hub in which is possible to know all the research they are leading to fight against pandemic: from detection tests to several drugs tests, from general treatments to vaccine, from social to psychological behavior patterns (https://ki.se/en/research/spotlight-on-covid-19).
The world has essentially hit pause while waiting for a vaccine against the new coronavirus. But vaccine developer Matti Sällberg, head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska, feels no pressure. “I’m a realist,” he says. “We cannot work any faster than what we already do. Others will be quicker, and therefore we are thinking long-term and focusing on finding a vaccine that can protect against several coronaviruses, including those that may pop up in the future. The search for a coronavirus vaccine will take time.”
The German partner Empirica has started a reflection around COVID-19 in the Precise4Q (Personalised Medicine by Predictive Modelling in Stroke for better Quality of Life) project, in which they are participating. “Stroke is one of the most severe medical problems with far-reaching public health and socio-economic impact. “With coronavirus, the challenge increases” declares Rainer Thiel CEO at Empirica.
With teleworking and confinement, non-presence medicine has become an essential tool to guarantee people's health. With it, the health workers can carry out the monitoring and follow-up of the patients, either those affected by the coronavirus or the chronically ill ones: both of them they can’t attend to the medical centers during COVID.
To cover this need, GMV has offered the health authorities Antari, its suite of eHealth products, Telemedicine and Epidemiology solutions that allow to implement the new virtual clinical practice model such as telemedicine and data management, helping the services of health to continue offering quality care and to find evidence and knowledge to beat the COVID19.
NTNU in Gjøvik has developed a better design for face shields, which are part of the personal protection equipment used by medical professionals. 45 3D printers have started producing the shields. The research team expects to be able to deliver 200-250 shields a day to hospitals that need them.
NTNU laboratory manager Tor Erik Nicolaisen and student Bjørn-Magnus Kristiansen came across a Facebook group for people interested in 3D printing. Recipes were posted on how to produce face shields.
The Facebook-group page had posted various suggestions and models of face shields for printing. The NTNU researchers chose the model they thought was best as their starting point. “We would have to call this process concurrent engineering,” says Nicolaisen.
A new project has been launched to unite engineers from across the world to help solve challenges deriving from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Peter Ogrodnik, a biomedical engineer from Keele University, is leading the project in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering Designers, who are calling for engineers and designers to join them and help tackle some of the biggest issues affecting the NHS and care providers, which could include creating a device to enable a frail person to accept a food parcel, the mass production of ventilators and testing surgical masks after they've been sterilised.
Ogrodnik, an expert in healthcare technologies from Keele University’s School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering, said: “As institutions we have access to some of the best engineering design minds in the world, some of whom are at home with time on their hands. We are suggesting that they could supply some of their spare time to a coordinated provision of engineers and designers focused on solving the problems deriving from the Covid-19 outbreak. Clearly the ventilator shortage is foremost in everyone’s minds but there are other issues too, many of which can be solved by the collective thoughts of engineers across the world.”
Project coordinator IBV collaborated with the Universitat Politècnica de València in the development of a new mechanical ventilator, ready for rapid manufacturing. The ventilator has been developed in just 10 days.
Respiratory insufficiency is one of the symptoms linked to COVID-19. It is believed that between 3% and 7% of people infected with the virus will require mechanical ventilation systems. “The device is easy to produce and there are some companies waiting for the approval from the medical authorities to produce it”, says Carlos Atienza, Head of Innovation in Health Technology at IBV.
To prevent the spread of the virus, face screen and masks are fundamental.
IBV has developed a low-cost face screen with original design, fully tested and entirely produced at IBV’s facilities. IBV has also participates in an initiative of the Valencian Government to ease donations to health centers and retirement homes. IBV has donated more than 10,000 screens in in two months.
IBV has also contributed with its knowledge in children's anthropometry to the development of the UNE specification to facilitate the manufacturing of hygienic masks. Mask adjustment is crucial for its efficiency, especially for vulnerable groups as in the case of children. Measurements of children's facemasks from 3 to 12 years of age have been defined by the anthropometry group of the IBV after analyzing the data of 3D scans carried out on more than 1,000 children.
Finally, IBV was also part of an initiative from COLEFCV (Valencia Sport Managers association) to help people exercise at home. A recent study led by IBV shows that during lockdown the sport activity increased about 13%.
“Back-Up consortium is doing all that it can to help during the corona outbreak”, states Giuseppe Caprara, Innovation Manager at IBV. “We are sure that this team will be stronger and more motivates after the emergency”, concludes.
For more information about Back-UP, please visit project web page http://backup-project.eu/
(Photo credits: Fusion Medical Animation, Walter Otto and H. Shaw)