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Initiated and coordinated by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the National Research Network of University Medicine on COVID-19 is pooling research efforts across Germany. Its aim is to make findings relevant to the novel disease available as quickly as possible. The framework for nationally coordinated Covid-19 research has now been established. The research network has drawn up plans for 13 large-scale collaborative projects, which are to be led by different university medical centers. Roland Eils, the BIH Chair for Digital Health, is the coordinating project leader of one of the funded projects. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing some €150 million in total funding to support the research network.

Whether it’s preventing infections, providing optimal patient care or maintaining health care capacity, the Covid-19 pandemic requires completely new strategies for action within a short time period. Scientists at 36 university medical centers across Germany have joined forces to combine and strengthen their research activities. The National Research Network of University Medicine on COVID-19, known for short as the Network of University Medicine (NUM), is centrally coordinated by Charité. Co-initiator of the network and Chief Executive Officer of Charité, Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, explained: “Researchers have come together under this umbrella, which includes nearly all German university hospitals and other networks, to work across locations to find the best possible solutions for patient care, to answer health care research questions, to combat the pandemic and to implement evidence-based procedures. What is new is the guiding idea: Cooperation among as many actors as possible instead of competition against one another, because we now need knowledge that is quickly accessible.”

The Network of University Medicine is promoting the systematic nationwide exchange of data and findings between the cooperation partners. In close cooperation with the National Task Force and coordinated by the Charité, 13 large-scale projects were selected from more than 280 proposals. The implementation plans take into account the research focuses of the respective university medical centers and pool outstanding expertise across Germany. The collaborative projects are to led by one or more of the centers. The project to create a national research data platform is being coordinated by BIH Chair Roland Eils.

National Research Data Platform for Covid-19 (FoDaPla)
The wide array of research questions involved in Covid-19 research requires the creation a of comprehensive, standardized data basis. The project therefore aims to establish a uniform nationwide infrastructure to store Covid-19 research data sets in a data protection compliant way. Current plans include a central data platform, data collection tools, use and access procedures, and a trust center. Professor Roland Eils, the coordinating project leader and founding director of the Digital Health Center of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité, commented on the project: “We want to create an infrastructure that can map out complex Covid-19 research data, including clinical, biomaterial and image data, in a multicentric, patient-oriented and pseudonymized manner. Such data will be made available centrally for use in research and will link university medical centers together.” The German Centre for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) and the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) are providing the infrastructure for the research data platform. The platform has been developed to be expandable and is designed for sustainable use in future pandemics.