Together with 27 other universities and shipping companies, the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) will undertake research on the prevention, mitigation and management of infectious diseases on cruise ships and passenger ferries.
The entire project was recently awarded NOK 37 million from the world’s largest research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. USN is receiving NOK 3.26 million, with professor and infection control expert Jörn Klein at the forefront.
– The research project will provide a basis for making the shipping industry pandemic-resistant and will highlight USN’s expertise in infection control throughout Europe and the USA, says Professor Klein.
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The professor’s expertise lies in microbiology, epidemiology, hygiene and infection control. He is USN’s core partner in the new project entitled «HEALTHY SAILING – Prevention, mitigation, management of infectious diseases on cruise ships and passenger ferries».
In the extensive international collaboration, the researchers will study the preparedness for and response to known infectious diseases often found on passenger ships, and diseases of unknown cause, to ensure emergency preparedness for future pandemics.
They consider the entire journey for passengers and crews from home to ship, with a global perspective on project results in relation to local communities and the passenger transport industry.
The project is USN’s first under Horizon Europe, the EU’s ninth framework programme, which commenced on 1 January last year after Horizon 2020. Under Horizon 2020, USN is already leading the Enhance research project, which continues under this flag for a few more years.
– The knowledge gained through the new project will make USN a significant player within maritime health. We will also be able to transfer the results to buildings and offices, and achieve technical infection control to protect society from future pandemics. Hospital buildings and operating theatres will also be safer, says Professor Klein.
He is an expert member of the Norwegian Infection Control Board and project manager of several major research projects within infection prevention and infectious disease. Moreover, Professor Klein is frequently cited in the media as an expert source concerning the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Increase in EU funding
The project is based on his ongoing EU-funded project Unravelling Data for Rapid Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19 (unCoVer). The aim is to develop predictable models of the disease pathways for different patient groups with Covid-19.
Professor Klein also participates in the international research network Harmony – COST Action which concerns new tools for test evaluation and estimation of disease prevalence.
– Epidemiological studies that assess disease prevalence are of critical importance for both the identification and control of pathogens in humans and animals, Klein explains.
USN has seen a positive increase in EU-funded projects during the period up to Horizon 2020. An important innovation within Horizon Europe is the introduction of ambitious mission-oriented research and innovation tasks to resolve selected major challenges in society.
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