COVIRNA project: Early detection for improved cardiovascular health outcomes of the European population
In the spring of 2020, most European citizens, although fearful of the virus the global media was reporting on, could not possibly envisage that their lives would be so dramatically impacted and that the economic, social and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would be so tangible. According to Reuters, since the start of the pandemic, there have been 63,651,000 reported infections and 1,525,000 reported deaths in Europe.
To contain the spread of the virus, by late March 2020, most European countries had in place measures restricting movement from and to their territories, and many of them had also placed restrictions on movement within the countries. The European Commission has provided invaluable support in coordinating the actions of Member States during the pandemic, in particular, in the fields of public health, transport, border protection, and internal market and trade.
To strengthen the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on 7 April 2020, the European Commission announced a set of short-term coordinated research and innovation actions at the EU level, the ERAvsCORONA Action Plan. The Action Plan sets out key short-term measures to coordinate, share, and jointly increase support for research and innovation. As part of the ERAvsCORONA Action Plan, 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 (Call H2020-SC1-PHE-CORONAVIRUS-2020-2) was launched on 19 May 2020, and that is how the COVIRNA project was born.
COVIRNA brings together 15 partners from 12 European countries with the objective of improving individualised surveillance, care and follow-up of COVID-19 patients in the context of the current pandemic. The project will develop a novel diagnostic test to identify COVID-19 patients at high risk of developing severe cardiovascular problems, who will then receive dedicated medical attention.
The test is intended for use by the European healthcare providers in charge of COVID-19 patients. The minimally invasive and easy to administer blood test will help them make decisions, adjust healthcare procedures, and maximise efforts for patients with high and specific needs. These patients will see their chances of survival increase and their risk of developing severe cardiovascular disease reduced if they can be appropriately taken care of in the hospital setting.
COVIRNA is a great example of how healthcare can be improved by adopting a personalised medicine approach, and ultimately contribute towards alleviating the socioeconomic burden of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The innovative technology employed to develop the COVIRNA diagnostic tool can also be transferred to new viruses or any novel disease with a cardiovascular component and is thus applicable to future pandemics.
Furthermore, while women have an unrecognised high risk of developing heart problems, sex-specific effects are not always taken into consideration when selecting the sample and interpreting the data. By integrating the sex dimension into the biomarkers, statistical analysis, and modelling studies, COVIRNA will shed light on the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases amongst women and improve care delivery. To summarise, the COVIRNA prognostic test will improve clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients, prevent sequelae, enable faster recovery, help address future pandemics and reduce health costs.