BY-COVID – new EU project for pandemic preparedness

The BY-COVID project aims to make infectious disease data, including COVID-19, openly available to everyone

BY-COVID logo
BY-COVID logo. Credit: ELIXIR

The new €12 million Horizon Europe funded project, BeYond-COVID (BY-COVID), will tackle the data challenges that can hinder effective pandemic response. The core aim of the project is to ensure that data on SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases can be mobilised, found and used by everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, and it is crucial for us to reflect back on how the scientific community initially responded to the crisis, and what technical gaps there were that hindered the ability of scientists to investigate SARS-CoV-2 at the early stages of the pandemic.

There has been a strong response across the world, with many nations generating and sharing vast amounts of data and locally tracking variants. Learning from this past experience, and also by monitoring the present day developments of the COVID-19 pandemic we can develop resources, data standards and guidelines that will enable a rapid response to novel emerging threats, and specifically unite and coordinate dispersed datasets from different institutes and countries.

Scientific communities working together

Niklas Blomberg, BY-COVID Coordinator and Director of ELIXIR, spoke of the need to work across scientific communities in pandemic preparedness: “It is fundamental that we learn and build on the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that, from a data perspective, there are no hindrances to rapid access to infectious disease data. The BY-COVID project is a fantastic opportunity to build on the existing infrastructure of the European COVID-19 Data Platform, providing opportunities for new knowledge to be generated by integrating data from new disciplines to create a strong foundation for future effective pandemic response.”

Building on the COVID-19 Data Platform

BY-COVID will build and expand upon the successful European COVID-19 Data Platform, a resource set up in the early stages of the pandemic and led by EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). Since the launch of the European COVID-19 Data Platform, many countries have established their own national data hubs, which ensures that data produced locally can be instantaneously connected, analysed and shared.

“We’ve learnt so much in the process of setting up and maintaining the European COVID-19 Data Platform,” said Guy Cochrane, Head of the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) at EMBL-EBI. “It’s fantastic to be able to build on some of this knowledge and to see the initiative grow and expand to incorporate other infectious diseases. This type of collaboration providing open access data to the global scientific community will be key in the fight against future pandemics.”

Working with partners such as the Versatile emerging infectious disease Observatory (VEO) and the Public Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI), BY-COVID will incorporate data from a broad range of disciplines, including public health and social sciences.

BY-COVID is an interdisciplinary project that unites life science, medical, policy, social science and public health experts from across Europe. Led by ELIXIR, the project has 53 partners from 20 European countries. The BY-COVID project will run for three years and is part of the European Commission’s HERA Incubator plan ‘Anticipating together the threat of COVID-19 variants’.

This press release was first published on the BY-COVID website.

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