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April 21, 2020

European Commission Launches Big Data Hub for COVID-19 Research

European data hub to go live

By claudia glover

The European Commission has launched a new Big Data hub for COVID-19 data, where researchers can share and store data from DNA sequences and protein structures through to data from pre-clinical research.

The move comes as part of a fresh push to increase collaboration across the continent — the worst affected by the coronavirus.

The EC also said it would be running a pan-European Hackathon in the end of April to “mobilise European innovators and the civil society” — 49 public and private organisations have signed up to support those efforts.

The new “open” platform aims to build bridges between “national public health data infrastructures” and The European Commission and the European Molecular Biology Lab’s (EMBL) European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), together with EU Member States and research partners such as ELIXIR.

Rapid open sharing of data greatly accelerates research and discovery, allowing for a collective response to the pandemic.

EMBL-EBI and partners have has set up the COVID-19 Data Portal, which will bring together relevant datasets submitted to EMBL-EBI and other major centres for biomedical data. The aim is to facilitate data sharing and analysis, and to accelerate coronavirus research.

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Central elements of the research displayed on the portal will be gene and protein expression data of human genes implicated in the virus infection of the host cells, and Identifying cell types and genes with highest expression in SARS-CoV-2 infections.

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The COVID-19 Data Portal will be the primary entry point into the functions of a wider project, the European COVID-19 Data Platform.

To rapidly populate the COVID-19 Data Portal, EMBL-EBI will bring together COVID-19 datasets that have been submitted to its public databases, including ENA, UniProt, PDBe, EMDB, Expression Atlas and Europe PMC. The data, which have so far been collated, include genes, protein structures, electron microscopy data and scientific publications.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

“Launching the European COVID-19 Data Platform is an important concrete measure for stronger cooperation in fighting the coronavirus. Building on our dedicated support for open science and open access over the years, now is the time to step up our efforts and stand united with our researchers. Through our joint efforts, we will better understand, diagnose and eventually overpower the pandemic.”

Not The  Only Big Data Hub for COVID-19 of its Kind

NHS England and NHSX are also working with several partners to create a UK big data hub for COVID-19, through a Government comission. They are incorporating  tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple, to ensure provide the infrastructure and the security, as well as UK-based Plantir technologies and Faculty, a London AI specialist.

The platform brings together different data sets from the NHS and social care, including 111 online and call centre data from NHS digital and COVID-19 test result data from Public Health England.

Data will then be “integrated, cleaned and harmonised” into a single information source.

NHSX chief Matthew Gould wrote in an NHS blog post:

“The results will be presented as dashboards that give a live view of the metrics needed to track and understand the current spread of the crisis, and the capacity in the healthcare system to deal with it”.

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