Launch of the Horizon 2020 ORCHESTRA project - Connecting cohorts in Europe to rapidly inform public health and vaccine strategies

Launch of the Horizon 2020 ORCHESTRA project – Connecting cohorts in Europe to rapidly inform public health and vaccine strategies

Verona, Italy 3rd December 2020 – Today marks the official launch of ORCHESTRA, a three-year international research project aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic, led by Prof. Evelina Tacconelli of the University of Verona and involving 26 partners (which extends to 37 partners when considering the wider network) from 15 countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, India, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Venezuela).

The project budget is close to 20 million euro which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the ERAvsCORONA ACTION PLAN which was developed jointly by Commission services and national authorities to tackle the pandemic.

Never before has there been such an urgent need for evidence-based innovative and rapid solutions to deal with health and health-related emergencies.

The ORCHESTRA project aims to respond to this need through the creation of a new pan-European cohort built on existing and new large-scale population cohorts in European and non-European countries. The knowledge gleaned from the study of these cohorts will inform European strategies with regards to

  1. effective protection of fragile populations in Europe (e.g. children, pregnant women, the elderly, solid organ transplant recipients, Alzheimer patients, oncological patients, Parkinson disease patients, patients with mental illness, HIV positive subjects.);
  2. reduction of the risks for frontline health care staff;
  3. addressing the longer-term consequences of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of individuals;
  4. analysis of vaccination response;
  5. impact of environmental factors, socio-economic determinants, lifestyle and confinement measures on the spread of COVID-19.

The project name ORCHESTRA is inspired by the multi-faceted yet harmonized approach namely, the integration of epidemiological, clinical, microbiological and genotypic aspects of population-based cohorts considering also environmental and socio-economic features. A federated data sharing infrastructure correlated with tailored Artificial Intelligence and analytics tools will allow the sharing of data throughout Europe and beyond. Data will include SARS-CoV-2 infected and non-infected individuals of all ages and conditions thereby enabling a retrospective evaluation of risk factors for the disease acquisition and progression of the disease and prospective follow-up aimed at exploring long-term consequences of the virus.

In coordination with the European Commission, the ORCHESTRA team will consult with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in particular when it comes to making available data in real time that can be of value for shaping the continuously evolving public health and vaccine strategies.

Today and tomorrow, project partners and international stakeholders will meet virtually to discuss the project strategy for the next three years. Prof. Tacconelli, the Project Coordinator stated “We expect that ORCHESTRA can help in providing the missing data needed to protect fragile populations and to address the long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection which we now know are of significant importance”.

Ultimately, in addition to providing much needed answers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the project provides an opportunity to learn lessons from the present crisis in order to be better prepared in case of new and future public health threats of similar dimensions and proportions.

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