In the last weeks we have seen in Flanders numerous initiatives to respond to the COVID‐19 crisis, many of them arising bottom‐up, often in collaboration with European partnerships that received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Everywhere in the region, research groups, as well as companies, have reallocated budgets to address different issues related to the COVID‐19 pandemic.
The Flemish universities and their experts play a crucial role in the guidance and decisionmaking of this unseen crisis. This is particularly challenging, as the virus is new and its pathophysiology, the epidemiology and social impact need to be better understood to develop better diagnostics, vaccines, treatments and interventions. Industry is also committed to developing solutions for various aspects related to COVID‐19; from the hackathon1 organised by the Belgian start‐up community, to the unprecedented collaboration2 between several life science companies to help address this global health emergency. In dealing with the COVID‐19 crisis, the research has been broadly addressed and covers epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and social impact.
Also biobanks are crucial in the run towards a COVID‐19 vaccine and/or treatment. The BBMRI- ERIC biobank network of 600+ biobanks can provide key services to researchers, such as (1) efficient and high‐quality storage of samples in clinical and research settings; (2) samples from healthy individuals, to be used as control (collected 2‐3 months before outbreak in each country), and (3) guidance and standards for targeted identification, collection and conservation of important samples. All COVID19 initiatives and services of BBMRI-ERIC are summarized on this website. The online search catalogue of BBMRI‐ERIC has furthermore been adapted with a COVID‐19 filter so researchers can find biobanks that have COVID‐19 samples available.
In this document below you can find an overview of the ongoing initiatives in Flanders reported by EWI.