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EU launches Covid-19 data portal

Website offers single access point for coronavirus data from health agencies and research teams

A coalition of European organisations has launched an online portal for sharing data on Covid-19, which is intended to accelerate research on the pandemic and assist with the response to it.

“Launching the European Covid-19 Data Platform is an important concrete measure for stronger cooperation in fighting the coronavirus,” said EU R&D commissioner Mariya Gabriel. “Through our joint efforts, we will better understand, diagnose and eventually overpower the pandemic.”

The website, announced by the European Commission on 20 April, is designed to bring together a diverse mix of research datasets relating to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as human and viral genomes, models of the pathogen’s structure and potential drugs to treat it. It also directs users to Covid-19-related articles available through the open-access index Europe PubMed Central.

The site was built by the Commission, the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the intergovernmental life science resources organisation Elixir and a research network for infectious diseases data analysis called Compare, along with EU member states and other partners.

In the coming weeks, the EBI will set up data hubs for public health agencies and research teams in member states. These repositories will be directly accessible from the portal.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the portal would eventually link to other disciplinary repositories using the European Open Science Cloud, an ongoing EU data sharing and analysis initiative.

“Scientists around the world have already produced a wealth of knowledge on coronavirus but no researcher, lab or country could find the solution alone,” she said. “This is why we want to help scientists to access data and share it with others across borders, disciplines and healthcare systems.”

Von der Leyen said the Commission expected thousands of DNA sequences to be uploaded to the portal “within a few days”, and tens of thousands of research papers.

Setting up the resource was one of 10 actions proposed by the Commission’s research department and informally approved by member states at the beginning of April, alongside coordinating funding and extending clinical trials.