Tobias Gantner

Tobias Gantner

Understanding COVID-19 through data

Citizen-science and data donation solution launched by Sciana Member seeks to collect data from European population to predict the behaviour of COVID-19

Sciana Member Tobias Gantner is hoping to gain a better knowledge of COVID-19 through the use of data and artificial intelligence.

Gantner is the head of fasterthancorona.org, a team of digital health professionals from Switzerland, Germany, and Spain, who want to learn more about the virus and prevent more fatalities.

“We still know extremely little about the virus,” said Gantner, head of the project and CEO of HealthCareFuturists in Cologne.

“At this phase, only limited scientific data about infected patients are released, mostly because the clinicians are too busy in the hospitals actually treating patients. The faster and the more we know about the disease, the better we can help patients. Every COVID-19 patient sitting at home in their living room is becoming a professional concerning this disease.

“It is this very knowledge that we want to share and analyse. By doing so, we can find answers to broadly discussed questions on medications like Ibuprofen, Resochin or antihypertensive drugs, [and] how they interact with the virus.”

People in Europe are encouraged to fill out a short anonymized questionnaire answering if they’ve been tested, if they have symptoms, and if they take any medicine. Faster than Corona is also collecting details on each person’s gender, age, and previous illnesses. To achieve reliable longitudinal data, registration by email address and zip code is necessary.

The developers hope to find insights about the virus and the journey of infection and the disease itself. "How about Ibuprofen? Are patients with sartans at higher risk? Data quality? Privacy? We are completely aware that we are pushing certain limits, but we are in the midst of a global crisis,” said Gantner. “What drives us is gaining information about the virus. By using the data and performing meaningful analyses, we actually want to save lives and prove that the methodologic toolbox used in epidemiology just became bigger.

“Therefore, we need to spread faster than Corona. We need every support we can get. Media coverage and presence on social media is what we are after now in order to attract as many as possible. Many people do want to get involved very practically. Our approach is aiming towards self-determination of an individual who voluntarily provides their data. Artificial intelligence is applied to generate and verify hypotheses.”

Medical data from participating volunteers will be anonymised and only be passed on to institutions and experts with a fundamental public scientific interest, according to Faster than Corona. This includes the World Health Organization, the Robert Koch Institut, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, universities, and other citizen science groups. The anonymized data may also be used in hackathons.

Faster than Corona is not funded by the government, industry, nor other third parties. Its sole intention is to utilize its know-how in digital health for the greater good and use data in a way that may contribute to a better quality of life, prolong lives, and save lives. For further information about the project, please contact info@fasterthancorona.org.

28.03.2020