Swiss TPH Is Awarded Three New Grants from the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health to Combat COVID-19

13.05.2020

Swiss TPH has been awarded 3 out of 11 new research grants from the Fast Track Call for Acute Global Health Challenges put forward by the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH). The research projects will help mitigate COVID-19-related medical and public health challenges.

Photo: BRCCH

Swiss TPH is awarded three new research projects to combat COVID-19 (Photo: BRCCH)

The BRCCH today announced the support of 11 new research projects in connection to a Fast Track Call for an Emergency Response to COVID-19 and the unprecedented global health challenges stemming from the pandemic. Swiss TPH was, together with partner institutions, successful in this highly competitive call and will obtain funding for 3 exciting research projects. The projects have a duration of 2.5 years and will receive major investments of altogether CHF 3.3 million: 

1) The project led by Melissa Penny, Deputy Head of the Infectious Disease Modelling unit at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Swiss TPH, seeks to harness mathematical modelling and machine learning approaches to guide and optimize clinical and public health strategies for the diagnosis, therapeutic interventions, disease surveillance and management in the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

2) In a project to be carried out in Lesotho, Klaus Reither, Head of the Clinical Research unit at the Department of Medicine at Swiss TPH, and his team will combine artificial intelligence, chest X-ray and antigen-based diagnostic tests to enable and improve diagnosis of COVID-19 patients in low-income settings. This project will be carried out in collaboration with SolidarMed, an NGO based in Lucerne, FIND, a product-development partnership based in Geneva and the Radboud University Medical Center based in Nijmegen.

3) An interdisciplinary team led by Daniel Paris, Head of the Department of Medicine at Swiss TPH, aims to develop a simple, low-cost device that can detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, using saliva. The project seeks to identify individuals who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and to provide novel insights into the variations in the immune response to COVID-19. 

Other organizations that competitively obtained support as leading institutes within collaborative consortia under this Fast Track Call are ETH Zurich, the University of Basel and the University Children’s Hospital Basel. Activities will start instantaneously.

“To say the least, we are thrilled that 3 of our grant proposals have been awarded by the BRCCH,” said Jürg Utzinger, Director of Swiss TPH. “This emergency research call put forth by the BRCCH is pivotal to address some of the most pressing health emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in low- and middle-income countries.” 

The overarching objective of the BRCCH call is to enable research that will help mitigate COVID-19-related medical and public health challenges in the short-term, as well as contribute to better preparedness and reduced global disease burden in the long-term. The initiative supports research in the following three areas: (i) Diagnostics for COVID-19 (5 projects); (ii) Human Immune Response to COVID-19 (3 projects); and (iii) Medical interventions and disease management for COVID-19 (3 projects). The call is supported by the Fondation Botnar.

About the BRCCH

The Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH) was jointly opened in 2019 by the University of Basel and ETH Zurich. Based in Basel, Switzerland, the Centre is dedicated to advancing global child and adolescent health by developing new translational and scalable solutions in paediatrics. It combines the complementary expertise from its founding universities and the University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB) and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH). In addition to its focused research activities in paediatrics, the BRCCH launches for the first time an emergency initiative to promote immediate and pragmatic approaches to combat the global health crisis caused by COVID-19. The BRCCH is generously supported by Fondation Botnar.

About the Fondation Botnar

Fondation Botnar is a Swiss-based foundation which champions the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technology to improve the health and well-being of children and young people in growing urban environments.

Melissa Penny

Melissa Penny, SNF Professor, PhD, PD

Klaus Reither
Daniel Paris

Prof. Dr. med. Daniel Paris, Associate Professor, MD, PhD, DTMH