medical sciences

Estonian Research Council supports joint Nordic research projects on COVID-19

Photo credit: Unsplash, Scott Graham
Photo credit: Unsplash, Scott Graham

Last Friday, the Nordic research council NordForsk announced funding decisions, according to which almost five million euros will be allocated to five new collaboration projects on health data research related to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the projects also involves researchers from Estonia, who receive 147,200 euros from the Estonian Research Council.

The projects funded through the programme cover a wide range of topics, including research on COVID-19 in relation to pregnancy, smoking and mental health, for example. The aim is to generate new knowledge by using existing health data, combat the COVID-19 pandemic and learn from the pandemic for the future. Compared to many other countries, Estonian and Nordic researchers can take advantage of their unique digital resources in the form of national registries and biobanks, which provide an opportunity to carry out extensive international studies.

In the successful application that involves Estonian researches, the research team of the University of Tartu Institute of Genomics led by Kelli Lehto, Senior Research Fellow of Neuropsychiatric Genetics, intends to carry out a study on the links between COVID-19 and mental health. Although the World Health Organization and research communities have alerted for adverse mental health impact of pandemic-related factors, the number of studies conducted in this field is relatively limited. The project will examine both short-term and long-term impact of the restrictions introduced during the pandemic on mental health in five countries where various measures have been taken to control the spread of the virus. Also, the project seeks to clarify whether the persons with some mental health problem or genetic predisposition are affected more severely by the COVID-19 virus. “We hope that the results of the projects will increase our capacity to identify the vulnerable groups who would need greater attention in pandemic situations, so that we could take that into consideration in developing health care policies and prevention programmes,” said Lehto. The project is led by the University of Iceland and other participating institutions are the Karolinska Institute of Sweden, Capital Region of Denmark and the University of Oslo.

„Research collaboration with Nordic partners is historically and strategically significant for us. This is the third Nordforsk programme in which the Research Council participates,” said the Head of the Department of International Research Cooperation Maarja Adojaan. “In the programme on digitalisation of the public sector, we finance the participation of our researchers in three projects with a total of 400,000 euros. In the programme for sustainable aquaculture, where the phase of assessing the proposals has started, we can support the contribution of Estonian researchers with 150,000 euros. We are happy that our researchers actively apply for funding from NordForsk and their cooperation with Nordic colleagues is intensifying.” 

NordForsk is providing funding for the COVID-19 research programme along with the Estonian Research Council, the Research Council of Norway, the Academy of Finland, the Swedish Research Council, the Innovation Fund of Denmark, the Latvian Ministry of Education and Research, and the Icelandic Centre for Research (Rannís).

By the end of the application period in the middle of June, NordForsk received 17 applications. Partners from Estonia were involved in nine projects. The assessment of the applications was organised by NordForsk. An international panel of experts considered the scientific quality and innovative potential of the proposals, also the possible effect of the project on the countries in the region and across the wider world. 

The list of funded projects and more detailed information is available on the NordForsk website.

Further information from the Estonian Research Council:
Maarja Adojaan                                                                            

Head of the Department of International Research Cooperation
Telephone: +372 731 7355

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