April 29, 2020

Spotlight series: How HBP scientists and infrastructures help in the Corona crisis

The Corona crisis is a major threat to society and an urgent challenge to science. In this situation, researchers throughout the Human Brain Project (HBP) use their expertise and unique scientific infrastructure to address research questions that go beyond neuroscience, to support activities against the pandemic.  For this series we highlight some of the work.




Fenix Resources for COVID-19 research

For researchers and scientists working on topics related to the current COVID-19 pandemic the Fenix Research Infrastructures provides consultancy support and help for getting access to powerful supercomputing resources.

Fenix is a distributed infrastructure providing High Performance computing, cloud and data resources to European research and scientists. The resources are provided by five European supercomputing centres, namely BSC (Spain), CEA (France), CINECA (Italy), CSCS (Switzerland) and JSC (Germany). They are being made available through the Human Brain Project and PRACE. Resources are ready for allocations at short notice.

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Combating the coronavirus with computational modelling

Prof. Paolo Carloni and Jr Prof. Giulia Rossetti

Institution: HBP partner Forschungszentrum Jülich

HBP research areas: Molecular Neuroscience

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Could nicotine help against Covid-19?

Prof. Jean-Pierre Changeux

Institution: HBP partner Institut Pasteur

HBP research areas: Molecular Neuroscience

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Katrin Amunts and Bertrand Thirion are advising their Governments

Prof. Dr. med. Katrin Amunts and Bertrand Thirion

Institution: Forschungszentrum Jülich and INRIA

HBP research areas: HBP Scientific Director and Task Leader Human Brain Organization

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Data science against Covid-19

Prof. Dr. Martin Hofmann-Apitius

Institution: Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI

HBP research areas: Medical Informatics Platform

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High Performance Computing to model disease spread

Prof. Dr. Thomas Lippert

Institution: Director of Jülich Supercomputing Centre, Germany

HBP research areas: Leader of HBPs High Performance Computing and Analytics platform

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Hunting for the molecular Achilles heel of Sars-CoV-2

Prof. Rebecca Wade

Institution: Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies

HBP research areas:  Molecular modeling and simulation

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Further activities


Integrating psychosocial variables and societal diversity in epidemic models for predicting COVID-19 transmission dynamics

Prof. Viktor Jirsa

HBP research areas: Modeling

By causally linking an established epidemiological spread model with dynamically evolving psychosocial variables, researchers have demonstrated that the strength of cumulative influence of psychosocial variables on infection rates is of a similar magnitude as the influence of physical distancing. They further show that the efficacy of political interventions to contain the disease strongly depends on societal diversity, in particular group-specific sensitivity to affective risk perception. As a consequence, the model may assist in quantifying the effect and timing of interventions, forecasting future scenarios, and differentiating the impact on diverse groups as a function of their societal organization.

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Single-cell analysis of COVID-19 infected individuals

Dr. Marc Beyer

Institution: HBP partner Deutsches Zentrum fuer Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

HBP research areas: Molecular Immunology

The group of Dr. Beyer is highly interested in unraveling the molecular events in innate and adaptive immune cells. His team is performing single-cell analysis of COVID-19 infected individuals at the DZNE Institute.

Read more about DZNE activities against COVID-19 here and here.

Academic Resources platform for COVID-19 in Switzerland

Prof. Felix Schuermann

Institution: HBP partner École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

HBP research areas: Brain Simulation, Modeling

The Blue Brain project is collaborating on an online platform, Academic Resources for COVID-19 (ARC), to support Switzerland's diagnostic laboratories to perform an adequate number of daily tests for COVID-19 as lockdown eases. The team have also used their expertise in data modelling to develop The Diagnostic Implementation Simulator for SARS-CoV-2, which can estimate the potential impact of deploying different test strategies for COVID-19.

Read more about EPFL activities against COVID-19.

Effects of COVID-19 lockdown on mental health

Prof. Gunter Schumann

Institution: HBP partner King's College London

HBP research areas: Medicine, Mental disorders

Prof. Gunter Schumann and his team at King's College London are investigating how the social isolation resulting from lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic influences behaviour and mental health in young people in Europe, India, China, and the United States.

Read more about King's College London activities against COVID-19.

Modeling to estimate the number of hospital beds needed in Sweden

Prof. Jeanette Hellgren Kotaleski, Dr. Andrei Kramer, Dr. Olivia Eriksson

Institution: HBP partner Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan (KTH)

HBP research areas: Modeling

The KTH group has been asked to help to model the spread of COVID-19 in Sweden to predict the number of intensive care unit beds that would be required in different hospitals across the country. The workflow involves data collection and sensitivity analysis on the predictions. A similar modelling workflow will be used in SGA3 which collects relevant information needed for building, optimising, and simulating subcellular models in one place.

Read more about Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan activities against COVID-19.