DRAGON conference: lessons learnt from COVID-19

The DRAGON consortium is a three-year IMI-funded project set up to study how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to deliver a more precise diagnosis and more accurate prediction of coronavirus. The project looked back on what it has achieved over the last three years at a conference in Brussels earlier this month.

The first day of the conference included a series of talks and discussions on different aspects of the DRAGON project, including AI, long-COVID and being prepared for future pandemics. Several sessions included videos from patients talking about their experience of the pandemic as someone with a lung condition. For example, COVID-19 Patient Advisory Group (PAG) member Natalia told the heart-breaking story of losing her husband to COVID-19 and later being diagnosed with the illness herself. Colette spoke about how the DRAGON COVID-19 app would have helped her track her symptoms when she suspected she had caught COVID-19 early in the pandemic. And Ron explained that he was unable to attend the conference in person as he was on the waiting list for a lung transplant and could not risk catching COVID-19. He ended with a plea for everyone to not forget about people like him who were still ‘shielding’ from COVID-19. You can see some of our patients’ stories here.

The patients attending the conference also joined the experts on stage for discussions, where they had the opportunity to share their experiences and to question the experts.

On the second day, everyone took part in workshops to decide on the important questions that need to be answered on COVID-19 and for future pandemics. The discussions emphasised the need to continue research on long-COVID, in the hope that greater understanding of the condition will lead to a cure. It would also be important in a future pandemic to ensure that accurate and up-to-date information is shared on what is known and what is not known about a new disease.

Highlights from patients attending the conference:

  • “There were dozens of groups of researchers from all over the planet who, in a very short time, achieved results that would have been unthinkable a few years prior,” says ELF COVID-19 PAG member Stefano Pavanello. The importance of this work was emphasised to him after the event. “One of our dear friends, who had attended the conference, tested positive again with the usual annoying symptoms. Is it really over?”
  • “The conference in Brussels for me was just an amazing experience,” says Fran Enright, also a member of the ELF COVID-19 PAG. “I met so many interesting people, including other long-COVID patients who were all just such lovely people. I’m so grateful to all those who are involved and for all their hard work. I now realise the amount of work and research that has already gone on and is still going on. This is why funding is so important so these experts can carry on their amazing work.”

You can watch the conference sessions on the European Respiratory Society website here.

About the DRAGON project

The DRAGON project is coordinated by the University of Maastricht and led by Radiomics. Partners include the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and ELF as well as high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises, academic research institutes, and biotechnology and pharmacological organisations. The project will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to deliver a patient-centred decision support system to improve diagnosis and patient outcomes.   

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 101005122.The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA.