Several research groups at UiA have been successful in the Norwegian Research Council's rapid funding call for research that will contribute to the better understanding of and mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Centre for eHealth has received 4.5 million to the project Digital Infrastructure for Robust and Scalable Patient Monitoring in Pandemic Response Situations which is about digital monitoring of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM) in cooperation with Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) have been granted 4 million for the project COvid19 Network Technology based Responsive Action. Here, researchers will develop a system for efficient and sustainable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The University of Agder is very pleased to receive funding for two projects from the funding call in connection with COVID-19, and we look forward to being able to contribute to the national effort to get through the crisis with our research expertise. We are also confident that the knowledge that comes out of these projects will enable us to better handle similar societal challenges in the future, ”says Vice Rector for Research and Interdisciplinary Projects Hans Kjetil Lysgård.
The municipalities of Agder were early to provide digital home follow-up of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. They expanded an existing solution that is in use for digital follow-up of people with chronic illness. Patients with symptoms can feel safe at home, and the burden on health care systems can be reduced, and quarantined health professionals can work from home.
“The research project will support the health service’s evaluation of how this solution has worked for users. By involving both patients and health professionals, we will contribute with improvements and further development of solutions and services. The goal is to make use of the possibilities that digital technologies provide to be prepared for the second wave of infection or the next pandemic”, says project manager Margunn Aanestad, professor and scientific lead at the Centre for eHealth.
UiA researchers will collaborate with the municipalities of Agder, the Hospital of Southern Norway, the ICT cluster Digin, I4Health and several business partners to explore the opportunities this creates for innovation and business development.
“New types of patient-generated health data and new sensor technologies coupled with artificial intelligence can contribute to less labour-intensive and more accurate monitoring of disease progression, which can be useful even when there is no pandemic”, says Aanestad.
Scientists around the world are working on developing vaccines for COVID-19. Even when large scale vaccine production gets underway in 12 to 18 months, availability will be limited, as all countries will want the vaccine.
“Then, all countries’ health authorities must be prepared for how to deliver the vaccine to those who need it in an effective, sustainable and fair way,” says project manager Hossain Baharmand, postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Information and Communication Technology at UiA.
A major challenge is that vaccines are sensitive products, for example to temperature, and situations can arise from the vaccine leaves the manufacturer until it reaches the patient.
“Our goal is to propose a method that can support every stage of the supply chain. In this project, we will learn from the current situation, the available data on the spread of disease, and the strategies that are being used in Norway's tackling of COVID-19”, says Baharmand.
Partners are KU Leuven in Belgium, Özyegin University in Turkey, the Institute of Transport Economics, and the company Agens.