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International University of Sarajevo continues its efforts to help tackle societal challenges.  The COVIRNA project, led by the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), is  one of the 23 research projects awarded within the framework of the Horizon 2020 call for Expression of Interest  “Innovative and rapid health-related approaches to respond to COVID-19 and to deliver quick results for society for a higher level of preparedness of health systems”. The project aims to foster the development of a novel diagnostic test to predict COVID-19 outcomes for patients and improve the cooperation between European research institutions to strengthen the response to the pandemic. More specifically, COVIRNA is a patient-centred Innovation Action aiming to generate a diagnostic tool to identify COVID-19 patients at risk of developing fatal cardiovascular complications, ultimately leading to their improved surveillance and care The project will complete and deploy a prognostic system based on cardiovascular biomarkers of COVID-19 clinical outcomes, combined with a predictive model built on digital tools and artificial intelligence analytics.

On May 19th 2020, the European Commission launched the Second call for an Expression of Interest for innovative and rapid health-related approaches to respond to COVID-19 and to deliver quick results for society for a higher level of preparedness of health systems (SC1-PHECORONAVIRUS-2020-2) as part of the ERAvsCORONA Action Plan. An overall budget of €128.2 million is mobilized under this call, mainly originating from the Horizon 2020 (H2020) Framework Programme as part of the Commission's EUR 1.4 billion pledge to the Corona virus Global Response. Complementing a first call aimed at advancing the knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 in relation to potential clinical and public health measures, this second call focused on wide-scale, rapid (within 3-24 months) deployment of readily available health-based technological solutions to manage and contain this current and future outbreaks. In this context, and building on the network developed within the EU-CardioRNA (“Catalyzing transcriptomics research in cardiovascular disease”) COST Action, a consortium of 15 academic and innovative SME partners polled their expertise and resources (notably by providing access to various European COVID-19 clinical cohorts) to build a multidisciplinary and multicentre study with the common aim to improve individualised surveillance, care and follow-up of COVID-19 patients in the context of the current pandemic.

The project was awarded under the topic SC1-PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2B (Medical technologies, Digital tools and Artificial Intelligence (AI) analytics to improve surveillance and care at high Technology Readiness Levels) with a total budget of EUR 4.44 million and EUR 3.88 million of EU contribution. The project boasts a complementary consortium of 15 partners from healthcare, academia and industry from 12 European countries. The partners are:

  • Luxembourg Institute of Health (LU)
  • University of Luxembourg (LU)
  • International University of Sarajevo (BA)
  • University of Maastricht (NL)
  • Firalis SA (FR)
  • Imperial College of Science and Technology Medicine (UK)
  • European Health Management Association (BE)
  • Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf (DE)
  • The University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Policlinico San Donato SPA (IT)
  • Pharmahungary 2000 Kft (HU)
  • University of Leipzig (DE)
  • Jožef Stefan Institute (SI)
  • Fundació Privada Institut de Recerca de l`Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (SP)
  • University of Coimbra (PT)

The team, which will be led by Dr Yvan Devaux from the Cardiovascular Research Unit of the Department of Population Health (DoPH) at LIT, will conduct a large retrospective study on multiple existing cohorts of COVID-19 patients throughout Europe and upscale the already validated and patented “FIMICS” panel of cardiac-enriched long noncoding RNA biomarkers into an in-vitro diagnostic test (COVIRNA), adapted to COVID-19 patients. The study will therefore rapidly deliver a minimally-invasive, simple yet robust and affordable prognostic assay that can be used in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as in further major health crises.

The IUS project team consists of well-experienced researchers: Assist. Prof. Dr. Kanita Karađuzović-Hadziabdić, Assist. Prof. Dr. Emin Tahirović, and Senior Assistant Muhamed Adilović. Assist. Prof. Dr. Kanita Karađuzović-Hadziabdić, who is also the COVIRNA project coordinator for IUS, has highlighted the importance of this project and its cooperation with leading health institutes and universities. According to Assist. Prof. Dr. Kanita Karađuzović-Hadziabdić, IUS will play an integral role in the project by focusing on information system for data integration and analysis, which is necessary for the development of predictive model for disease mortality in COVID-19 patients using artificial intelligence.  Lastly, this project further shows IUS commitment to providing different and groundbreaking research opportunities for its graduate students.

The project will last for two years.