Searching for a way out of the brain fog caused by COVID-19

1. October 2021

HITS is a partner in the new EU-funded research program “BRAVE” that proposes tackling COVID-19 brain inflammation with computer-designed molecules. The project was selected for European Commission (EC) funding after a call by the Human Brain Project (HBP), encouraging the use of the HBP and EBRAINS infrastructure for COVID-19 related research. Coordinator of the project is the University of Turin (Italy), other partners are the University of Pavia (Italy) and the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Germany).

Although COVID-19 is primarily treated as a respiratory disease, patients often experience neurological problems. Research has also shown blood vessel damage and inflammation in COVID-19 patients’ brains and central nervous system. To tackle these problems, the Human Brain Project’s (HBP) issued a call in Spring 2021 on “COVID-19 and its impact on brain and mental health”. The idea behind the call was that researchers outside the HBP will exploit the tools, methods and resources being developed in the HBP.  12 eligible projects were submitted, two were finally selected for European Commission (EC) funding.

One of the two selected projects is “BRAVE.” It proposes tackling COVID-19 brain inflammation with computer-designed molecules. The researchers will use the FENIX supercomputing facility of the Human Brain Project and the EBRAINS services to aid the design of molecules targeting brain proteins that govern inflammation processes. These chemical compounds could act as potent anti-inflammatories. Furthermore, the computational methods developed and applied in this project will also help to enhance humanity’s readiness to face novel pandemics. The project will officially start in December 2021.

The coordinator of “BRAVE” is the University of Turin, Department of Drug Science and Technology (UNITO), Italy. The other partners are University of Pavia, Department of Chemistry (UNIPV), Italy, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, INM-9 (JUELICH), Germany, and the Molecular and Cellular Modeling group (Group Leader: Rebecca Wade) at HITS.

More details in the HBP press release.

About HITS

The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.

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