EUcare: Joining forces to battle SARS-CoV-2 disease progression

How do SARS-COV-2 variants, coupled with other factors, influence the clinical course of COVID-19? Is there any vaccine or test escape related to variants? Do variants influence the spread in the school setting, and how? Can we define a better testing and containment strategy in the school setting? What is the impact of containment measures, including schools closure, on pupils and teachers? These are some of the questions that the EuCARE project will strive to answer.

The project EuCARE, short for European Cohorts of Patients and Schools to Advance Response to Epidemics, is funded by the EC under HORIZON-HLTH-2021-CORONA-01. Researchers from Haifa joined the project partners and WHO representatives at the kick-off meeting in Rome on November 11 and 12.

Coordinated by Euresist Network, 22 primary universities, hospitals and ICT research centers are involved. The EuCARE project aims to provide robust, data driven evidence to deal with SARS-CoV-2 variants and COVID-19 epidemics. With the support of strong immuno-virological and artificial intelligence components, the study will take advantage of large hospital patient cohorts, vaccinated healthcare workers and schools’ cohorts in Europe, Kenya, Mexico, Russia and Vietnam to find an answer to urgent issues related to science and society.

This effort is being coordinated by the EUResist Network, which originally worked to combine forces that would combat the devastating impact of HIV. More than a decade ago, IBM researchers in Haifa, contributed new technologies and mathematical models that provided a more efficient way to choose the best drugs combinations for any given HIV genetic variant. The resulting EuResist network was a powerful online system that helped doctors choose the treatment with the highest probability of halting virus replication and impairing evolution of drug resistance. Now these efforts are being directed to cope with a different battle—finding answers to the challenges brought on by SARS Cov2 variants and new epidemics.

"The appearance of a new disease challenges all the areas associated with it, whether technologies, research, treatment, or testing",” stated Dr. Michal Rosen-Zvi, Director of Healthcare Informatics at IBM Research. “Our job is to build tools for this pandemic and any others that may surface, to help accelerate scientific discoveries associated with any novel medical condition.”

The Haifa lab team will be contributing their deep expertise in AI, along with essential tools such for causal inference that will help identify biomarkers for the COVID and long-COVID disease progression.