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MedUni Vienna SARS-CoV-2 projects receive WWTF funding

Research projects are being funded as part of the "COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding" scheme
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(Vienna, 03 April 2020) As part of its "COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding" scheme, Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) is funding Viennese universities and research institutions. Up to a maximum of €50,000 of funding has been allocated to each of 24 projects from different disciplines, so that potentially life-saving research can be done quickly and valuable data collected. Three projects are being led by MedUni Vienna.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic represents an enormous challenge to Austria and the rest of the world and science has a critical role to play in overcoming the crisis. WWTF has therefore quickly set up its "COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding" scheme in response to this situation. The scheme will enable researchers to swiftly collect the valuable data required, inter alia, to facilitate a rapid response.

In total, WWFT is providing more than €1 million of funding for this, donated from the funds of the private charity WWTF and from donations from other private donors for individual projects, including the MEGA Educational Foundation of B&C and Berndorf Private Foundations. The funding is going to 24 projects by Viennese universities and research institutions, in six categories:

• Understanding and Combatting the Virus;
• Expanding Testing Capacity;
• Epidemiology and Public Health;
• Society in Crisis;
• Education and Schools and
• Economy and Logistics.

MedUni Vienna is leading three of these funded projects:

SARS CoV-2: Mental Health in Austria
Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, Benedikt Till, Marlies Braun, Stefanie Kirchner, Hannah Metzler, David Garcia (all Medical University of Vienna) in collaboration with: David Garcia, (Complexity Science Hub (CSH) and Medical University of Vienna)
Sars-CoV-2 represents an unprecedented emotional challenge for many people, especially those in vulnerable groups. A regular, standardised survey will be conducted (April - December 2020) among a group representative of the population to ask how their mental health (depression; suicidal ideation; domestic conflict/aggression; prosocial behaviour) is evolving. The survey will also establish how this data correlates with Public Health containment measures, the collective mood on social media and the uptake of psychosocial support provided by agencies. Finally, it is hoped to establish what contribution social media data can make to the timely planning of interventions, in so far as they can be used to predict mental health.

Self-reported COVID-19 symptom tracking with the aid of an anonymised online survey
Tanja Stamm, MedUni Vienna's Center for Medical Statistics, Informatics and Intelligent Systems in collaboration with Erika Mosor, Valentin Ritschl, Maisa Omara, Martin Posch, Franz König, Matthias Wielscher, Michael Hiesmayr (all Medical University of Vienna); Susanne Perkhofer, FHG Innsbruck); Michael Schirmer, Medical University of Innsbruck;  Angelika Rzepka, Bernhard Pfeifer, Peter Kastner, Anton Dunzendorfer (all Austrian Institute of Technology), Florian Stigler, Martin Sprenger (all Medical University of Graz), Siegfried Walch and Nils Mevenkamp (all Management Center Innsbruck))
The aim is to describe potential courses of COVID-19 and to be able to estimate the number of potentially infected individuals in defined populations, since tests are not currently being offered to everybody. The intention is that the online questionnaire, which was compiled on the basis of the WHO description of symptoms, will be completed by as many people as possible each day. The questionnaire can be completed in a totally anonymised way by means of an online survey or, alternatively, by registering your email address. It can also be used for collecting the self-reported outcomes of those who have been hospitalised. It would be possible to validate the data by means of serological tests later on. A preliminary project has already been started in Vorarlberg.

Features and course of COVID-19 in healthcare workers
Jordakieva, Galateja (Department of Physical Medicine, Medical University of Vienna) together with Ruth Kutalek (Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, Medical University of Vienna) in collaboration with Richard Crevenna, Maren Jeleff, and Elena Jirovsky
This interdisciplinary project will look at the working conditions of healthcare workers who are in contact with confirmed Covid-19 patients. In particular, it will include those who themselves have underlying health conditions representing risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms (e.g. cardiovascular or respiratory disease, diabetes). In terms of methodology, an adapted version of a readily accessible WHO protocol will be used for assessing 2019-nCoV infection in workers within the Viennese healthcare system. In addition, the workplace situation and the coping strategies of healthcare workers will be surveyed using an explorative, qualitative approach (semi-structured interviews). The results will help to improve current measures and will be included in future risk assessments.

About WWTF
Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) is the only major private, non-profit research sponsor in Austria. Its purpose is to finance cutting-edge scientific research projects. At the same time, it aims to retain highly talented young researchers for Vienna as a centre of research. With an annual budget of approximately €12 million, primarily provided by a private foundation, WWTF concentrates its resources within the fields of Life Sciences, information and communication technologies, cognitive research and environmental research, in which Vienna has already demonstrated major strengths.

MedUni Vienna is also involved in other projects in the capacity of joint partner. There is a list on the WWTF website.