The Spotlight Series of the Human Brain Project presents how the flagship’s researchers use their expertise and e-infrastructure to contribute in the global fight against the novel coronavirus.

Photo collage of researchers: Prof. Paolo Carloni, Jr Prof. Giulia Rossetti, Prof. Jean-Pierre Changeux, Prof. Dr. Thomas Lippert, Prof. Dr. Martin Hofmann-Apitius, Prof. Rebecca Wade, Prof. Dr. med. Katrin Amunts, Bertrand Thirion

The HBP researchers on the picture from top left to bottom right: Prof. Paolo Carloni, Jr Prof. Giulia Rossetti, Prof. Jean-Pierre Changeux, Prof. Dr. Thomas Lippert, Prof. Dr. Martin Hofmann-Apitius, Prof. Rebecca Wade, Prof. Dr. med. Katrin Amunts, Bertrand Thirion

The Human Brain Project’s (HBP) Spotlight Series is a collection of news articles and interviews that gives an insight into the projects undertaken by members of the flagship consortium alongside brain research  to contribute to the current health crisis.

This compilation of articles includes the understanding of the pandemic process and the spread of the virus itself, the disease it causes and its various symptoms, as well as the continued search for potential treatments. Some examples include the following:

  • The computational capacity from the HBP supercomputing infrastructure, Fenix, which is mobilised and modelling the spread of the disease.
  • Similarly, in an urgent quest for possible treatments, a group of molecular modelling experts participates in the EXSCALATE4CoronaVirus project and uses the Fenix supercomputers to search for effective antiviral drugs among the current commercially available ones against the proteins that enable the survival of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Using their expertise on the nicotine effect on the functions of neurons, HBP researchers have been able to investigate the question of the potential mitigating role of nicotine on the risk of infection after a study reported a surprisingly low number of smokers among COVID-19 patients.
  • The HBP expertise in data science, particularly with semantic technologies developed for managing all the knowledge in the field of neuroscience, has been offered to the research community in order to extract relevant information from the numerous scientific papers related to COVID-19.
  • HBP researchers also can provide advice to public and private stakeholders in EU Member States.

This Spotlight Series demonstrates that HBP researchers are ready to adapt quickly to current scientific and societal needs, whilst illustrating the breadth of HBP expertise and the flagship’s facilities.

Background

The Human Brain Project is one of the FET Flagships financed under the Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme. The project is a large-scale initiative for boosting efforts in neuroscience and includes the design and building of EBRAINS, a research infrastructure based on advanced information and communications technology. The aim of the project is to help advance neuroscience, medicine and computing to enable a better understanding of the brain and its diseases, and to develop new digital tools inspired by the brain, such as artificial intelligence systems or robotics. This 10-year project began in 2013.  It employs over 800 scientists in more than 100 universities, hospitals and research centres across Europe and countries associated with the EU funding programme, Horizon 2020.