Home | Our News | COVID-19: Research Luxembourg is mobilising
COVID-19: Research Luxembourg is mobilising
Provision of equipment and specialised personnel, support for hospital staff, scientific studies
Research Luxembourg, a joint initiative of the main players in Luxembourg’s public research sector, is mobilising its knowledge and its human and material resources to help address the challenge of COVID-19. A task force has been set up in order to offer the health system the combined expertise available within the Luxembourg public research sector (LIH, LISER, LIST, LNS, University, FNR, under the coordination of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research).
The missions of this working group are:
Coordinate the provision of support from the national research community to healthcare providers and the government in order to contain the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Help identify and centralise a variety of priority activities, leveraging on the cross-sectoral expertise in molecular biology, epidemiology, clinical trials and fundamental research
Be the point of contact between the national research ecosystem, the clinical community and the authorities
The task force will focus on three pillars:
– a prevalence study to assess the extent of the spread of the virus and the number of asymptomatic individuals;
– a stratification study in which researchers attempt to identify risk factors that contribute negatively to disease progression;
– statistical simulations on the evolution, impact and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide short- and medium-term projections and thus facilitate decision-making on when restrictions could be lifted.
Concrete actions have already been put in place. Research institutions have provided the health sector with equipment and specialised personnel. In this context, it is worthwhile mentioning the important mobilisation of doctors in training in the framework of the “formation spécifique en médecine générale”. Indeed, many of these future general practitioners have volunteered to support hospital staff in the four hospital establishments in Luxembourg.
To enable this initiative, the government, with the support of the University of Luxembourg and the doctors involved in this training, has adjusted the relevant regulatory framework and adopted the necessary measures to enable the deployment of these volunteers in the coming days. Likewise, nurses working in research as well as students in medicine are also being trained to support hospital staff.
Due to the international pressure exerted by governments and research funding agencies, almost all scientific data and publications on COVID-19 are freely accessible in digital form (machine readable). This data is a very valuable resource, easily amenable to text and data mining using artificial intelligence techniques. This is an area in which Luxembourg has strong expertise.
To accelerate these efforts and to stimulate new ideas and new collaborations between researchers, additional funding will be provided by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR). Given the urgency of the situation, quick funding decisions will be ensured.
CON-VINCE, a national research project aiming to evaluate the prevalence and dynamics of the spread of the COVID-19 disease within the Luxembourgish population, was launched at the beginning of April under the umbrella of the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Task Force. Following the successful recruitment and first testing effort of more than 1800 participants over the age of 18, a first publication has now been uploaded on the preprint server medRxiv (Reference: MEDRXIV/2020/092916) and will be soon submitted for peer-reviewed scientific publication.
We understand that researchers and research teams may go through a difficult period triggered by the COVID-19 lockdown. Research projects may currently be suspended and key parts of projects may have to be postponed for a significant amount of time, FNR wishes to offer flexibility in the handling of grants and grant proposals.
Various partner agencies of the FNR have launched calls for proposals concerning Sars-CoV-2 offering international consortia to submit proposals for research projects tackling COVID19. The calls will be handled under the lead-agency procedure and FNR is prepared to finance the Luxembourg part (eligible to FNR support) of successful projects.
In close cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Health, the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Task Force has developed a “Large Scale Testing Strategy” based on a voluntary diagnostic test accessible to the population, including cross-border commuters of the Greater Region. The goal: increase testing to cover the entire Luxembourg population.
The Research Luxembourg COVID-19 task force has announced the start of “Predi-COVID”, a study that aims to identify important risk factors and biomarkers associated with COVID-19 severity and long-term health consequences of the disease in Luxembourg. The FNR supports the study with 1.85 MEUR.
For the current FNR COVID19 fast track call, the FNR aims to foster interdisciplinary projects and institutional cooperation among public research institutions. In the project ideas on the national COVID-10 Platform, we have noticed a significant number of project ideas that could complement each other and would lend themselves to synergies. Therefore, the FNR decided of offer a top-up funding of up to 30.000 EUR for projects where complementary expertise from different fields are bundled.
The FNR has launched a special fast-track Call to provide initial funding for research projects on COVID-19, with a first deadline of Tuesday, 14 April 2020. The aim is to (co-)support short-term projects, or the starting phase of long-term projects. In order to be eligible for the FNR Call, short descriptions of project ideas must first be published on the COVID-19 platform by 8 April.