Scientists collaborate over new COVID-19 data portal

The platform has had 73,000 users and 2.6 million requests since its launch in April.
By Sara Mageit
07:39 AM

A new online platform has been set up by the European Open Science Cloud Initiative, where scientists share COVID-19 data and accelerate understanding of the virus to help develop treatments and vaccines.

The new European COVID-19 Data Platform will allow scientists to share SARS-CoV-2 data from clinical trials, research centres, hospitals and national healthcare systems.

WHY IT MATTERS

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, a big challenge for researchers has been the sharing of data and findings in a coordinated way.

Gathering clinical information, the data portal brings together relevant datasets that are difficult to find, such as raw and assembled viral sequences.

Thousands of researchers are already sharing free resources to tackle COVID-19 in the context of the European Open Science Cloud initiative (EOSC).

Set up by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's  European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the European research infrastructure ELIXIR, the platform is supporting life science laboratories across Europe to share and store their research data.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Other data-sharing platforms have also been created in response to what the World Health Organisation described as an 'infodemic' during the pandemic. 

In July, a new platform led by Imperial College London and enabled by Amazon Web Services (AWS) aimed to pool global data on COVID-19 from over half a million sources.

Earlier this year, the UK government released details of COVID-19 data-sharing deals with big tech firms after legal action threat.

Concerns around patient privacy and data security defences have been highlighted during the pandemic, with nations identifying the hacking of coronavirus research lab systems by rival states as a threat. 

ON THE RECORD

Project coordinator of EOSC-Life, Niklas Blomberg said: “We are really impressed with the rapid uptake of the portal.

“Already we are seeing the platform play a key role in allowing scientists to understand fundamental questions about the virus. Researchers are sharing knowledge on how the virus mutates when spreading, the basic biology of the virus, how it infects, whether there are any drug targets or intervention points where known drugs can be repurposed, and the human response, for example, the genetic risk factors for the severity of the disease.

“The work in EOSC-Life on Europe-wide solutions for federated access to data that cannot be openly shared - for example, human genomes and disease data, data from clinical trials, access to biobank samples from European biobanks - is directly supporting the portal development. The work provides a blueprint for long-term solutions and potentially helps to prepare us for future outbreaks.”

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