Grand Challenges ICODA COVID-19 Data Science pilot initiative:  Grants Awarded

| 29/07/2021

Today, the International COVID-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) and the Grand Challenges initiative announce ten global projects that will accelerate knowledge of COVID-19 through data science. These projects will address urgent research questions relating to the ongoing pandemic using innovative data science approaches and seek to have rapid impact on the health of communities across the world.



The projects address a range of critical COVID-19 research questions from exploring the effectiveness of vaccination programmes, understanding disease transmission, the impact on different vulnerable patient groups and populations, and the impact on health services delivery. The goal is to find new ways to prevent and treat the disease across communities and countries globally in ways that will transform outcomes.  Outputs from their research are expected within 12 months.


These projects were identified following a global funding call launched at the end of 2020 with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Minderoo Foundation and Microsoft’s philanthropic AI for Health program. More than 400 applications were received from 69 countries from which the projects were selected after a rigorous review process involving an international panel. The projects have global reach and involve researchers in 19 countries with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries including Brazil, Colombia, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.


Steve Burnell, COVID-19 Response Lead, Minderoo Foundation said:


Minderoo Foundation is pleased to support this Grand Challenge initiative focused on critical COVID-19 related research questions. The selected projects, leveraging high quality data and evidence with support from ICODA, all have the potential to progress innovative, scalable solutions to these challenges and accelerate impact.”


Steven Kern, Deputy Director of Quantitative Sciences, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said:


This cohort of research projects will take forward the core aims of the Grand Challenges initiatives, using innovative, collaborative approaches to address urgent research questions on the current pandemic. The wide geographical scope and engagement will help build a global community of researchers focused on global health and data science.”


As well as the direct research benefit of these projects, this programme will contribute to the development of a global community and ecosystem to support health data science research coordinated by ICODA.


ICODA is a globally coordinated data-led research response to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, convened by Health Data Research UK, the UK’s national institute for health data science. In addition to funding to support their research, award holders will have access to resources, technology and processes from the ICODA team and its partners, as well as opportunities for collaboration across a global research community.


Professor Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK and Chair of ICODA, said:


The scientific quality and relevance of the Grand Challenges ICODA research projects are exceptional, and they have the potential to have a fundamental, global impact on the current pandemic. This is a significant step forward for ICODA, and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development and roll out of the pilot initiative.”


Overview of projects

Project Title Lead Institution Geographical Scope
Effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination in Brazil using mobile data Fiocruz, Brazil Brazil
Impact of COVID-19 on health service delivery and institutional mortality: a multi-country consortium Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, USA Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal province only, USA
Addressing Critical COVID-19 questions through Research using linked population Data (ACCORD) University of Cape Town, South Africa, South Africa
Characterizing COVID-19 transmission chains for precision mitigation, using epidemiological survey data City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong China – with potential for wider collaboration
Data descriptor, reference coding and characterization of the systemic complications of critical care patients included in the ISARIC COVID-19 dataset Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia Global scope including UK, Australia, Malawi, Malaysia, Russia, S Africa
Evaluating social inequalities effects on the COVID-19 pandemic in a LMIC country Fiocruz, Brazil Brazil
Incidence and risk factors for COVID-19 amongst pregnant and lactating women and their infants in Uganda MRC/UVRI, MU-JHU Research Collaboration and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit, Uganda Uganda
Routine assessment of infections, prevention and control of SARS-COV-2 on unequal populations. Fiocruz, Brazil Brazil
The impact of COVID-19 on chronic care patients’ health care utilization and health outcomes in Haiti, Malawi, Mexico and Rwanda Partners in Health, USA Haiti, Malawi, Mexico, Rwanda
The PRIEST (Pandemic Respiratory Infection Emergency System Triage) study for low- and middle-income countries. The University of Sheffield, UK UK, South Africa, Sudan


To read summaries of all the grants awarded for this pilot initiative visit our Driver Projects page


See a message from one of our funders, Minderoo, below:

Global Grand Challenges