Published On: August 30, 2022

The European project aims to evaluate the circulation and impact of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern through the study of well-characterised cohorts across the world

The European Commission-funded END-VOC project kicked off with the aim of elucidating the circulation and impact of current and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOC) through the study of well-established cohorts across the world. The kick-off meeting organised by University College London (UCL), the coordinator of the project, was held virtually from May 16 to May 18 with the participation of all the partners including ISGlobal, who is leading or co-leading several of the project’s work packages.

“Detecting emerging Covid-19 variants of concern, and understanding their implications on diagnostics, vaccination strategies and treatment options is key to guiding our response to the virus,” says Ibrahim Abubakar, principal investigator of the project based at UCL. “Our objective is to add new knowledge on these variants by bringing together cohorts in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia and collaborating with other consortia” he adds.

END-VOC: 19 partners, 28 cohorts in 23 countries, 5 key areas

The END-VOC consortium consists of 19 partners with cohorts in Europe (UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland), South America (Brazil and Peru), Africa (Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria and 13 countries in the ANTICOV trial), Middle East (Palestine) and Asia (India, Pakistan, Philippines). By using data from 28 well-established cohorts in these countries, the three-year project will focus on five key areas: i) detect and characterise emerging viral variants; evaluate their capacity to ii) evade vaccine-induced immunity or cause reinfections, iii) escape current treatments, iv) cause Long Covid; as well as v) provide recommendations to better prepare and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.

“The added value of our project is the quantity, quality, and diversity of population and patient cohorts across the world,” says Elisabeth Cardis, coordinator of the project at ISGlobal and co-leader of the work package dedicated to the curation and harmonisation of cohort data and their linking to biobanks. “We have 28 established cohorts, including in low and middle-income countries,” she adds. Improving data collection from these cohorts will strengthen the global health community’s capacity not only to respond to the current pandemic, but also to future health threats. As Abubakar pointed out in the first day of the meeting, one of the consortium’s objectives is to “achieve impact beyond Europe and beyond COVID-19”.

During the three-day kick-off meeting. which took place in May, and the general assembly, which took place in June, the researchers discussed how they plan to carry out the different tasks described in the project, and underlined the importance of adapting some of the research questions to the rapidly evolving situation of the pandemic. The project has received a funding of almost 10 million euros.