The Nordic countries are jointly strengthening research cooperation on COVID-19 to prepare for future pandemics, and are therefore launching five new research projects to study COVID-19 in relation to everything from pregnancy progression to smoking to mental health vulnerability. The projects are designed to generate new knowledge – using existing health data – that can help to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers throughout the Nordic countries and Estonia are taking part in this large-scale collaborative initiative, which has been awarded roughly NOK 53 million in funding.
Arne Flåøyen, Director of NordForsk, emphasises that the Nordic countries hold a unique position within COVID-19 research: “Right now a great deal of research on COVID-19 is being initiated, much of it focused on the virus itself and developing vaccines and a treatment. This is research that can be carried out anywhere in the world. We at NordForsk have our niche within research that benefits the Nordic region. So we seek to support research activity that can be carried out in the Nordic countries but is still valuable for the entire world.”
Studying pregnancy and COVID-19
One of the projects will study pregnancy progression, since there is little documentation regarding pregnancy and COVID-19. Many countries have included pregnant women as part of the high-risk group based on the precautionary principle, recommending that pregnant women do not expose themselves to COVID-19 infection – particularly in the late stages of pregnancy.
The researchers will investigate whether pregnant women are more likely to be affected by COVID-19 or to develop serious illness and require hospitalisation than non-pregnant women of reproductive age. Research will also focus on whether COVID-19 infection during pregnancy raises the risk of complications, including miscarriage, and whether the mother’s illness may affect the foetus.
The funders making the research possible
NordForsk, an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers, is providing funding for the COVID-19 research projects together with a number of national research agencies from across the Nordic region and Estonia: the Swedish Research Council, the Academy of Finland, Innovation Fund Denmark, the Research Council of Norway, the Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannís) and the Estonian Research Council.
Nordic Health Data Research Projects on Covid-19
NordForsk received 17 eligible proposals. These were assessed by an international expert panel. Five projects have been selected to receive approximately NOK 10 million each.
Mental morbidity trajectories in COVID-19 across risk populations of five nations
• Project leader: Unnur Valdimarsdóttir, University of Iceland
• Other participating institutions: Karolinska Institutet, Capital Region of Denmark, Institute for Sustainability Studies, University of Oslo, University of Tartu
Addressing the smoking paradox in the etiology of COVID-19 through population-based studies
• Project leader: Maria Rosaria Galanti, Karolinska Institutet
• Other participating institutions: Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
SCOPE - Scandinavian studies of COVID-19 in Pregnancy
• Project leader: Siri Eldevik Håberg, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
• Other participating institutions: Karolinska Institutet, University of Copenhagen, University of Bergen, Statens Serum Institut
Data streams and mathematical modelling pipelines to support preparedness and decision making for COVID-19 and future pandemics
• Project leader: Tom Britton, Stockholm University
• Other participating institutions: Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Agency of Sweden, Norwegian Computing Center, Telenor, University of Oslo, Aalto University, Tampere University
Nordic Collaborative Health Register Network for Covid-19 Epidemiology
• Project leader: Morten Andersen, University of Copenhagen
• Other participating institutions: University of Oslo, Uppsala University, University of Strathclyde