Predi-COVID study included in worldwide unCoVer network
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the international unCoVer network plans to exploit available real-world data from numerous partners worldwide to better understand the pathophysiology, progression and treatment, as well as epidemiological pattern of this disease. With its ongoing study Predi-COVID, the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) adds to its existing efforts to combat COVID-19 by joining the unCoVer network, contributing to creating an international, harmonised real-world data bank.
After nearly two years, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency. Despite the employment of public health measures, such as restriction of movements and gatherings, personal protection, as well as massive vaccination campaigns, the coronavirus is still largely affecting the mortality and morbidity worldwide, including persisting symptoms after the infection. While the pandemic is evolving and countries are adapting their health systems to new phases of preventive measures, the research community is trying to fully elucidate the transmission and progression of the infection, as well as the most effective ways of treating and preventing new cases in preparation for any new waves, particularly due to new variants of SARS-CoV-2. This requires international harmonisation of data from different sources, so that a comparison can be made across health systems and patient characterization can be improved using a wider heterogeneity of information.
The unCoVer (Unravelling data for rapid evidence based response to COVID-19) network aims to provide a research platform for the expert use of data obtained from the real world. By bringing together complementary data and medical and scientific expertise to address the still urgent questions regarding the determinants of the COVID-19 progression, the project hopes to inform more effective medical and public health strategies.
The Horizon 2020-funded network includes 29 partners from 18 countries, who have been collecting COVID-19 patient information during the pandemic. Among these, LIH researchers from the Department of Precision Health and the Translational Medicine Operations Hub will contribute data from the Predi-COVID study.
Predi-COVID was launched two years ago with the aim to identify important risk factors and biomarkers associated with COVID-19 severity and long-term health consequences of the disease in Luxembourg. Through it, the study contributed to elucidate why some patients infected by SARS-CoV-2 develop severe symptoms while others present only mild forms, which will ultimately lead to more personalized care recommendations. The study also included household members of Covid-19 positive participants to study the transmission of the virus in this high-risk population.
Real-world data such as those gathered in the unCoVer project are critical to understand and respond to the pandemic, and include, for example, patient characteristics and risk factors, or information on treatment efficacy. The unCoVer approach captures and collects these data in a standardised format, unifying otherwise scattered datasets whilst maintaining patient anonymity across countries.
The network will build ‘big data’ analysis tools, allowing clinicians, data scientists and epidemiologists, to collaboratively address questions including who is susceptible to serious disease. Whereas clinical trials often exclude the most vulnerable groups, unCoVer real-world data specifically includes these groups, therefore complementing and contrasting other studies.
These real-world data allow for studies into patient’s characteristics, risk factors, safety and effectiveness of treatments and potential strategies against COVID-19 in real settings, and complement findings from efficacy/safety clinical trials where vulnerable groups, and patients with comorbidities are often excluded. The unCoVer approach will address urgent questions related to COVID-19 health care provision and develop a secure cross-national database of anonymised hospital data. As the pandemic develops and with the emergence of new viral variants, this will improve patient care and provide the basis for public health initiatives,concludes Michel Vaillant, Head of Competence Center for Methodology and Statistics of the LIH Translational Medicine Operations Hub, and contributor to the unCOVer project on behalf of the LIH.
The infrastructure of the unCoVer project was recently published in BMJ Open under the full title “Unravelling data for rapid evidence based response to COVID-19: a summary of the unCoVer protocol.”
Funding and collaborations
The Predi-COVID study is supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) (Predi-COVID, grant number 14716273) and the André Losch Foundation.