As a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 EIT Health opened the ‘Rapid Response’ request for proposals, centred on projects that address the pandemic, create a short-term impact that can be scaled internationally and leverage our partnership network.
Today EIT Health announced that it will allocate over €6 million in funding in the fight against COVID-19, which will be dedicated to 14 specially selected health innovation projects across Europe. The 14 projects selected cover biotechnology, diagnostics, digital health and med tech, and will be run by 36 partners. Three German projects were selected for this initiative, two by Technical University of Munich (TUM) and one by RWTH Aachen University, in the fields of optimisation of population screening and diagnosis and containment of disease spread and outbreak prevention.
Here are some details on the projects:
- ‘FastRAI’ led by TU Munich will develop a solution based on teleradiology and artificial intelligence to enable COVID-19 identification for clinical triaging. In the first part of the project, expert radiologists will support over-burdened hospitals dealing with COVID-19 by providing high quality reports on the medical images obtained at the hospitals. During this phase, the project will build a GDPR-compliant digital biobank of the images that are reviewed. Within six months, these images will allow the development of an AI algorithm that can project x-rays onto CT images and build up data on the progression of lung disease. Using this data, the FastRAi system will increase the information that doctors obtain from standard x-rays. The system will be able to analyse x-rays and detect features that are invisible to the human eye, in order to better estimate the progression of a patient’s lung disease. Their project aims to reduce the time and resource burden associated with COVID-19 triaging within the hospital setting. External partners: Deepc, M3i Industry-in-Clinic Platform.
- ‘CoViproteHCt’ led by TU Munich in cooperation with Fundación privada Instituto de Salud Global Barcelona (ISGLOBAL) and University of Barcelona will develop and validate assays to characterise protective immune responses that can be used to identify individuals with COVID-19 immunity. Focusing initially on healthcare professionals working with COVID-19 patients and other critical areas, the assays can be adapted by companies and academic partners throughout the world within weeks. This approach will allow the selective release of individuals from quarantine restrictions and return to work, thus stabilising healthcare systems and the economy. In addition, the validated assays can be used in future vaccine trials, to determine the effectiveness of experimental vaccines. External partners: Mikrogen.
- ‘ViruShield’ led by Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) from RWTH Aachen University will address the shortage of masks for medical professionals by developing an alternative high-performance fabric that is cheap, easily available, washable and reusable, and can make masks that meet the EU standards for protection. The solution is a new textile that is based on widely available raw materials, like cotton, and can be produced in existing facilities, such as textile mills and clothing factories. The project aims to arm medical professionals across Europe with PPE where there are currently vast shortages. External partners: FU Berlin and Scientific Products GmbH.