THE COVID-19 RAPID COLLABORATION CALL CHRONICLE – Part 1

Why a Collaboration Call?

The world is still very much fighting the SARS-CoV- 2 pandemic, and in many countries, is still striving to deal with a growing number of COVID-19 patients. Clinicians, scientists, governments and the public all want to know more about characterising patients with COVID-19, how best to manage their care, and if certain treatments are safe and effective.

Data and derived insights and evidence are the lifeblood of pandemic decision-making, whether clinically for patient care, or for governments in making the right decisions in responding to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Outside of a pandemic, as well as during this one, real-world health data is often fragmented, siloed in poorly interoperable systems and requires considerable curation to work with. This Collaboration Call is all about bridging these gaps.

On 26-29 March, the global Observational Health Data Science & Informatics (OHDSI) community conducted a COVID-19 study-a-thon, with ongoing analysis, to research the characterisation of COVID-19 patients, and analogues such as influenza, and to evaluate the safety profiles and potential efficacy of several drugs proposed for repurposing in treating SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. This served as proof of concept in how standardising data can facilitate fast analysis supporting evidence-based decision-making.

Following on from this, and to act now, especially with regards to growing a collaborative, open science community able to research the pandemic rapidly, EHDEN is providing financial and technical support to assist Data Partners with harmonising their representative and relevant (anonymised) COVID-19 clinical data to the OMOP common data.

How it works

EHDEN has called out to European Data Partners to apply through its portal via a short COVID-19 Call application template. A panel of acknowledged bioinformatics experts is reviewing applications during this Open Call process, which began on 16 April and will run until 14 May, 17:00 CET. Successful applicants will:

* Receive a sub-grant from EHDEN of up to €50,000 (we have allocated a total of €1M from EHDEN’s Harmonisation Fund for this specific call), based on evaluation of data complexity, to support the process of data harmonisation to the OMOP common data model and allied tools

* Be able to engage with an EHDEN COVID-19 Taskforce made up of technical experts with skills and experience to assist with remote harmonisation of data (under the current pandemic restrictions)

* Be invited to participate in COVID-19 research studies to accelerate our understanding of how to combat this pandemic and improve patient outcomes, so the main criteria for inclusion in this Call is relevance and representativeness of COVID-19 data

Recognising that institutions holding COVID-19 data are giving priority to their clinical duties during the pandemic, the idea is that the overhead be minimal for them. EHDEN therefore created a taskforce of project partners, volunteers, and certified small- and medium-sized enterprises to manage and perform data mapping and all tooling so that the data sets can be analysed throughout Europe for the benefit of all.

Status

As of 7 May, fifteen applications have been submitted and sixty-two are in draft form in the EHDEN platform. Of these fifteen applications, six have so far been accepted. These successful applications come from five European countries and cover 245,000 COVID-19-tested patients, of which 50,000 tested positive.

“We’re thrilled that this Collaboration Call is enjoying such a strong response rate, which clearly shows the collaborative spirit of the scientific community. When this data mapping process has been completed in the coming weeks and months, we’re confident it will facilitate research for meaningful insights and real-world evidence across Europe,” said Associate Professor Peter Rijnbeek, EHDEN Coordinator. He added, “This will contribute to our knowledge and help improve management and treatment of COVID-19.”

Nigel Hughes, Scientific Director, Janssen, and EHDEN Project Leader echoed this, and stated, “This pandemic has been characterised by how much we don’t know, versus what we do. Decisions at a policy and clinical level have been impacted by insufficient or a lack of credible data. As the pandemic progresses globally over 2020, we need answers and an ability to do this collaboratively with speed for upcoming peaks, as well as to support clinicians, researchers and governments as we try to effectively prevent and treat COVID-19.”

Keep an eye out next week for Part ll in the series, which will share the final number of participating Data Partners and some of their initial thoughts on the Call.