At present, the number of people living with dementia in the European Union is estimated to be 7,853,705. These figures are expected to almost double by 2050, increasing to 14,298,671. The estimate of this number was published in 2019, a year before the COVID pandemic went global and two years before the first evidence appeared in the scientific literature that COVID-19 infections change the structure of the human brain or might have long-term effects on memory and learning.

The COMMUTE project investigates the correlation between COVID-19 and neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs), combining two fundamentally different angles.

Firstly, a hypotheses-free, data-driven approach builds on available big data and the application of cutting-edge AI/ML technologies to answer the question of whether infection by SARS-CoV-2 causes effects that result in a higher risk for the development of NDDs at the population level. 

Secondly, a hypothesis-driven, knowledge-based approach leverages the substantial knowledge in the scientific community working on NDDs on the putative comorbidity mechanisms linking COVID and neurodegeneration. Both approaches will inform and support each other through an intensive crosstalk between computational and experimental biology methods.

Understanding the comorbidity between COVID-19 and NDDs at the causal level is the first goal of the COMMUTE project. The second goal is the translation of the actionable insights into personalized health applications. 

  • On the AI/ML side, the targeted outcome for translation into practice is a set of qualified biomarkers and predictive features that will be used for an AI-powered, model-generated recommender system that will allow for individualized risk assessment and personalized recommendations. 
  • On the side of the biomedical assay systems, COMMUTE will use cell-based assays based on clear pathophysiology mechanism understanding for drug-repurposing screenings in collaboration with REMEDI4ALL, the largest of the EU drug repurposing platforms.

COMMUTE is a 48-month interdisciplinary project funded by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HADEA). The Department of Innovation and Digitalisation of Law (UNIVIE) serves as the Ethical, Legal and Patient Engagement partner of the COMMUTE consortium to provide legal counsel and offer solutions to the ethical challenges that may arise throughout the project.

Further information on the project is available in u:cris. Here you will find the link to the official COMMUTE website

Experts of the Department working on this project: