By Caoimhe Killeen
NUI Galway has been awarded approximately €9.75 million in EU funding to develop IT services and systems that will boost the EU’s response to future pandemics.
The NUI Galway-led project entitled “PANDEM-2” commences this month and will bring leaders across Europe in various sectors such as health, security, and communication.
The advisory board for the Project is set to include the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
PANDEM-2 will involve the use of IT systems to simulate outputs that pandemic managers will prepare possible responses for in a variety of different pandemic scenarios.
These systems will extend to other critical resources such as PPE, vaccines and hospital beds and their management, as well as improved planning across Europe in responding to a possible future pandemic.
The PANDEM project was established to identify the gaps and research needed for preparing for future pandemics across Europe.
PANDEM-2 will build upon findings made in past EU-funded projects to ensure better decisions are made in terms of improving health services and pandemic management.
“Covid-19 has had devastating economic, social and health impacts on countries worldwide,” said Professor Maire Connolly of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and Coordinator of the PANDEM-2 Project.
“The state-of-the-art tools that will be developed by PANDEM-2 have the potential to transform how Europe prepares for future large-scale healthcare crises through improved analysis of surveillance and contact tracing data, innovative pandemic modelling, better resource allocation and training of pandemic managers using simulations across Europe.”
Professor Connolly’s areas of expertise include that of emerging infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness having worked at the WHO for fifteen years as Coordinator for Disease Control in Emergencies and advisor to the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security up until 2012.
Her roles involved creating a global research agenda for humanitarian emergencies and pandemic preparedness. She has also written over 50 WHO technical reports alongside the publication of three books of communicable diseases in emergencies.
NUI Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh spoke of NUI Galway’s commitment to being to the forefront in shaping societal responses to future challenges,
“it is reassuring to know that NUI Galway and the PANDEM-2 consortium will be at the forefront of developing systems to improve the EU’s preparedness and response to future pandemics… As a university, we play an important role in shaping society and this project amplifies our commitment to contributing to the health, wellbeing, and security of society throughout the EU.”
Professor Jim Duggan from the School of Computer Science and College of Science and Engineering added that, “Our role within the project builds upon our work from PANDEM which involved research on pandemic response and the development of a resource modelling tool, PANDEM-CAP.”
“This data will enable pandemic managers in capacity building and developing operational strategy for cross border pandemic response so that Europe will be as well positioned as possible for any future pandemic that may arise,” he continued.
The news of funding for the PANDEM-2 project has also been welcomed at a national level.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly congratulated the university, stating,
“I’m delighted to see further EU investment in research and innovation which will help us prepare at a national and European level for future pandemics.
“While we are still facing many challenges with Covid-19, it is critical that we also focus on longer term developments for pandemic preparedness, as this project will. I am delighted that Irish research will be central to this work,” he finished.