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Press releases

Cardiovascular science provided the blueprint for university Covid-19 research

Copyright: Thinkhubstudio/iStock

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The German Center for Cardiovascular Research has carried out pioneering clinical Covid-19 research by making its clinical research platform available to the nationwide Network University Medicine (NUM) in 2020. Starting in 2022, the NUM will operate its own research platform based on the DZHK’s successful model. The DZHK will then end its operational cooperation, as planned. The DZHK‘s research platform therefore serves as a blueprint for the future research infrastructure in the NUM.

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“Without the DZHK, university Covid-19 research would not have been able to start with nationwide studies as rapidly as they did. In April 2020, in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, the DZHK was ready to make its structures and know-how available to the NUM," says Prof. Heyo Kroemer, Chairman of the Board of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, who founded the NUM. The head of the NUM coordination office, Ralf Heyder, adds: “We have benefited enormously from the DZHK partners' many years of experience with logistics for large multicenter studies. We would like to thank them for their extremely successful collaboration over the past year and a half. "

A quick solution was needed

When the novel coronavirus became known in March 2020, it quickly became clear that university research had to join forces in the fight against Sars-Cov2. In order to collect data and biosamples from sick and infected people across Germany, the NUM, established by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, urgently needed a high-performance data and biosample infrastructure.

The DZHK research platform was selected because it met all the requirements for research into Covid-19. It can be used to record clinical data, patient samples and diagnostic images in a pseudonymised manner and completely digitally. "We only had to adapt our platform, with which we normally conduct multicenter clinical studies in the cardiovascular area, to the specifics of COVID-19 research and adapt data acquisition systems and processes," says Dr. Julia Hoffmann, project manager at the DZHK office.

A unique level of detail

Since November 2020, the platform has collected data and samples from 4,500 people from three cohorts of the National Pandemic Network (NAPKON), one of the NUM projects. The data are characterised by a particularly high level of detail. "The data collected in the research platform and the planned molecular examinations will give us a uniquely detailed picture of the Covid-19 disease and its long-term consequences," says Prof. Janne Vehreschild, who coordinates NAPKON with his team at the University Hospitals in Frankfurt and Cologne. “This will allow us to break down the causes of severe disease and consequent damage even more precisely and give us advice on how we can better protect and treat our patients.” Over 60 research projects have already been applied for or started.

Using the DZHK platform as a blueprint

In the future, the infrastructure partners of the DZHK will record the Covid-19 data based on the DZHK model under the direction of the NUM. “We see the fact that we have provided the blueprint for a NUM research platform as a sign of quality and the highest standard. With our platform, the data acquisition could start quickly. We are now looking forward to being able to focus entirely on cardiovascular research again, ”says DZHK board spokeswoman Prof. Stefanie Dimmeler.

Background information

The clinical research platform of the DZHK enables the national operation of multicenter clinical studies and the sustainable use of research data and samples. Several infrastructure partners at different DZHK locations are involved in the platform. The data storage and distribution takes place in Göttingen, the image data management is coordinated at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the LMU Klinikum Munich, the biosample documentation system is the responsibility of the University Medical Center Greifswald, and the ethics coordination takes place at the Helmholz Center in Munich. An independent trustee in Greifswald manages the pseudonymisation of the data and gathers patient consent.


Further information: NAPKON powered by DZHK