Fighting global pandemics with data

Shivom’s contribution to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The SARS-CoV2 virus is among us. We realized that only through global partnerships and communities that we will overcome this great threat to humanity.

In the current coronavirus outbreak, the global research community is mounting a large-scale public health response to understand the pathogen and combat the pandemic. Vast amounts of data` generated need analyzing in the context of pre-existing data and shared for solution-centric research approaches to combat the disease and inform public healthcare policies. However, research showed that the vast majority of clinical studies on COVID-19 do not meet proper quality standards due to small sample size. Our approach is designed to provide healthcare professionals with an urgently needed platform to find and analyze genetic data, and securely and anonymously share sensitive patient data to fight the disease outbreak.

As result of our efforts, Shivom was selected to be part of the World Economic Forum’s COVID19 program. Being part of the WEF global Covid-19 efforts means that Shivom will get direct access to the WEFs public-private partner’s network to help our Covid-19 solution scale. The WEF aims to find innovative solutions tackling the global pandemic from three angles:

1, Prevention & detection   2, Respond & deliver   3, Recover & rebuild

The WEF efforts are organized on UpLink, a digital platform to crowdsource innovations, in an effort to accelerate the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are thrilled to acknowled as part of the UpLink family. The UpLink community is building a community of like-minded and impact-driven changemakers, innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

But our efforts did not end here. Our organization was also selected to be a member of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance. Most of you may have heard about XPRIZE before, a non-profit organization founded by Peter Diamandis that designs and hosts public competitions intended to encourage technological development to benefit humanity. Their Board of Trustees include James Cameron, Larry Page, Arianna Huffington, and Ratan Tata among others. The XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance is a global coalition that combines the power of collaboration, competition, shared innovation and radical thinking to accelerate solutions that can be applied to COVID-19 and future pandemics. As part of this Alliance, researchers and scientists are invited to share and access data through the XPRIZE Data Collaborative, a unique platform for researchers and innovators to collaborate, share and learn from data in a broad spectrum of fields in their search for solutions. This trove of data aims to unlock new approaches to fighting pandemics and will serve as the backbone to the collective effort that will prepare us for additional pandemic spikes like COVID-19, or other viral threats.

XPRIZE Founder and Executive Chairman Peter H. Diamandis: “The XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance will leverage data and human collaboration like never before to facilitate technological breakthroughs for the benefit of humankind.”

Shivom takes part of the XPRIZE Exchange, a digital collaboration platform, which facilitates matchmaking between partners so we can leverage the network of Alliance Partners to contribute their resources, data and expertise to drive the latest COVID-19 breakthroughs. One of the breakthroughs is certainly our pandemic preparedness solution that is hosted on our platform and free to use for all COVID-19 researchers.

Being a part of the precision medicine platform Shivom, we developed a versatile pandemic preparedness solution that allows healthcare professionals to rapidly share and analyze genetic data. The platform solves several problems of the global medical and research community, such as siloed data, cross-border data sharing, lack of state-of-the-art analytic tools, GDPR-compliance, and ease-of-use. The platform combines patient genomic & omics data sets, a marketplace for bioinformatics algorithms, new diagnostic tools, and data-sharing capabilities to advance virus epidemiology and biomarker discovery. The bioinformatics marketplace contains some preinstalled COVID-19 pipelines to analyze virus- and host genomes without the need for bioinformatics expertise. The platform will be the quickest way to rapidly gain insight into the association between virus-host interactions and COVID-19 in various populations which can have a significant impact on managing the current pandemic and potential future disease outbreaks. We prepared a paper on how to tackle COVID-19 and future outbreaks of the SARS-CoV2 or other viruses using our precision medicine platform. The preprint is available on medRxiv and Europe PMC.

Shivom

Data Flow in the Shivom platform. The user does not need in-depth bioinformatics expertise and is guided through all necessary steps from data upload to data analytics. Basically, data from a variety of sources is uploaded by the data custodian and data permission rules are set. If the data is set to open or monetizable, it will be searchable in the data marketplace. Once a dataset of interest is identified and filtered, the user can select a bioinformatic workflow (pipeline), configure user-specific parameters if needed, and then start the analysis. The user can then investigate and share the resulting report and, depending on the workflow, run further downstream analysis.

COVID-19 Call to action

The urgency of tackling COVID-19 has led governments in many countries to launch a number of short-notice and fast-tracked initiatives. Without proper coordination amongst ministries and agencies, they run the risk of duplicating efforts or missing opportunities, resulting in slower progress and research inefficiencies. The best way to prevent a further spread of the virus and potential new pandemics is to apply the same principles as we use to prevent catastrophic forest fires: survey aggressively for smaller brush fires and stomp them out immediately. We need to invest now in an integrated data surveillance architecture designed to identify new outbreaks at the very early stages and rapidly invoke highly targeted containment responses. Currently, our healthcare system is not set up for this. In this new surveillance architecture proposed in our paper, genomic analysis of patients presenting with severe clinical symptoms would be performed up front in hospital labs piggybacked on routine diagnostic testing.

Researchers can use the data in our data-hub to compare new cases with existing datasets. Using genomic sequencing, the novel causative agent could be identified within hours, and the network would instantaneously connect the patients presenting at multiple locations as part of the same incident, providing situational awareness of the scope and scale of the event. Using a globally accessible, easy-to-use solution that provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for the centralization of information on new virus-host interactions can help ensure that appropriate conditions for collaborative research and sharing of preliminary research findings and data are in place to reap their full benefits. Beyond short-term policy responses to COVID-19, incorporating data sharing with the Shivom platform into ongoing mission-oriented research and innovation policies could help tackle future pandemics on a national or international scale, for example to enhance datasets informativeness to reveal host infection dynamics for SARS-CoV-2 and therefore to improve medical treatment options for COVID-19 patients. In addition, it can help to determine and design optimal targets for therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2. In line with the recommendations by the Research Data Alliance (RDA) COVID-19 Working Group, the Shivom platform can be used for:

  • Sharing clinical data in a timely and trustworthy manner to maximize the impact of healthcare measures and clinical research during the emergency response
  • Encouraging people to publish their omics data alongside a paper
  • Underlining that epidemiology data underpin early response strategies and public health measures
  • Providing a platform to collect important social and behavioural data (as metadata) in all pandemic studies
  • Evidencing the importance of public data sharing capabilities alongside data analytics
  • Offering a general ecosystem to exploit relevant ethical frameworks relating to the collection, analysis and sharing of data in similar emergency situations

At this point in time, the research community should be clear that a second or third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will hit most countries. In addition, other epidemics and global pandemics will follow; it is just a matter of time. We also encourage sharing data from COVID-19 and other virus outbreaks, including data from people who were exposed to the same pathogen but did not get the disease or possibly were infected but did not get symptoms.

Dr. Axel Schumacher, Co-Founder & CEO

About the author:
Dr. Schumacher is a geneticist, author, & futurologist and Co-Founder of Shivom. He has over 30 years’ experience in the field of genetics, personalized medicine, aging & longevity, with a documented track record as visionary scientist, inventor and business manager in academic, clinical and pharmaceutical environments across Europe and North America. Axel is the author of the “Blockchain & Healthcare Strategy Guide”, a ‘must-read’ for decision makers in the digital healthcare vertical. Axel is particularly well known for his work in epigenetics. He invented the first microarray technologies for epigenetic biomarker discovery, developed the ‘epigenetic theory of aging’ with his research leading to the worldwide first proof of whole genome epigenetic abnormalities in Alzheimer’s disease. Axel’s mission is to translate scientific discoveries into practical digital applications to help understand and prevent complex disorders, and to transform the way we age. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the University of Cologne/Germany.

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