CASUS receives one million euros to optimise COVID19 testing
In the fight against the Corona Pandemic, the Free State of Saxony is supporting a project of the Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS) with one million euros. With the money, the Görlitz researchers want to develop software that will optimize the use of tests for the virus SARS-CoV-2. First results are expected soon.
In addition to the development of therapies and a vaccine to combat SARS-CoV-2, extensive testing is one of the most important tools to hinder the spreading of the virus. Knowledge of the exact number of infections and the rapid identification of new foci of infection make a decisive contribution to correctly assessing the situation and deriving recommendations for action. “The corona pandemic is far from over and although testing capacities in Germany are very large, their effective use is becoming more difficult as the number of infections increases. We want to make a contribution to developing strategies for using the available testing capacities as effectively as possible,” explains Prof. Justin Calabrese of CASUS.
Prof. Calabrese is from the USA and has already conducted research on the Zika virus and the spread of infectious diseases transmitted by animals. In recent months, he has assembled an international team of data scientists, statisticians and epidemiologists. Their aim is to develop software that will provide information on the optimal spatial, temporal and strategic use of tests. “Our digital platform should help to determine which people should be tested at what time and in what places and what type of tests should be used in order to make the most effective and targeted use of the available test capacities, for example as individual tests or as pooling,” explains Dr. Weronika Schlechte-Welnicz, who is responsible for project coordination. Initially, comprehensive data on the number and results of tests carried out will be collected in cooperation with the authorities and offices. Subsequently, epidemiological models will be integrated in order to examine various “what-if” scenarios for the planning of test strategies. A first prototype is expected in 2021.
Cooperation between different disciplines necessary
In order to obtain an overall view of the situation and comprehensive results, cooperation between a wide range of scientific disciplines is necessary. CASUS is committed to interdisciplinarity right from the start. Minister of Science Sebastian Gemkow emphasizes: “We have seen how great the influence of existing or even scarce testing capacities on an assessment of the situation and the resulting recommendations for action is, even in countries with a highly developed health system. Making the best use of testing through a digital solution is an important part of a strategy to contain pandemics. The research project is in the best hands with CASUS, because the goal of the project can only be achieved through the interaction of different disciplines and competences”.
This is an aspect that the Scientific Director of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), Prof. Sebastian M. Schmidt, also emphasizes: “We are pleased that with the research at our still young department CASUS we can make a contribution to the fight against the corona pandemic. Like all other pressing issues of our time, the challenge that SARS-CoV-2 poses to us shows that we can only find adequate solutions through scientific cooperation between different areas – be it the pandemic, global climate change or therapies for widespread diseases such as cancer”. In addition to an interdisciplinary team, the Görlitz scientists also draw on the expertise of other research institutions and are in close exchange with, for example, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig or the competence cluster HIFIS (Helmholtz Federated IT Services) and the University of Maryland.
First Saxony, then worldwide
The money comes from the budget of the Saxon Ministry of Science and the Corona Coping Fund of the Free State. The focus of the research will initially be on Saxony and can then be extended to Germany or even worldwide. “The software will be made available as an open source application and constantly adapted to the course of the pandemic. It can thus also serve as a tool for rapid response to future pandemics and thus represents an important component of forward-looking health care,” notes Dr. Michael Bussmann, founding representative of CASUS.
Where2Test can be accessed online at www.where2test.de.
The Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS) was founded 2019 in Görlitz and is operating data-intensive interdisciplinary systems research in such diverse disciplines as Earth system research, systems biology or materials research. The goal of CASUS is to create digital images of complex systems of unprecedented fidelity to reality with innovative methods from mathematics, theoretical systems research, simulations and data and computer science to give answers to urgent societal questions.
Partners are the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig (UFZ), the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden (MPI-CBG), the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) and the Wroclaw University.
The Center is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Saxon State Ministry of Science, Culture and Tourism.
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