New VEO project to forecast, nowcast and track emerging infectious diseases

Wednesday 25 Mar 20
Versatile Emerging infectious disease Observatory (VEO) project started 01 January 2020.

Through the VEO project, the EU is supporting a research and innovation action to establish a system that serves as an interactive virtual observatory for the generation and distribution of high quality actionable information for evidence-based early warning, risk assessment and monitoring of emerging infectious disease threats.

Emerging diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are increasing due to global changes that have a fundamental impact on the dynamics of infectious diseases, challenging the existing global health infrastructure and organization. Rapid identification is essential to reduce the impact and costs of outbreaks.

“Our ambition is to revolutionize our ability to detect and analyze outbreaks of emerging disease at a much earlier stage than currently is possible, thus allowing time to respond rapidly to seriously curtail their impact,” says Professor Marion Koopmans, head of department of Viroscience at Erasmus MC Rotterdam, and coordinator of the project.

Building upon recent achievements

The project will further build on the principles and data sharing hubs developed for joint analysis of combinations of sequence-based pathogen data with sample-associated (clinical, epidemiological) metadata developed through the EU-funded COMPARE project (

Taking the work further, the new project “will work from the vision that the detection and prediction of human and animal health threats arising from current and predicted global changes can be revolutionized by shifting from a mostly reactive (single) pathogen targeted surveillance into a system that supports prediction, detection and tracking of when and where risk of outbreaks is increasing,” explains Professor Frank Aarestrup, head of the Research Group for Genomic Epidemiology, Technical University of Denmark, co-coordinator.

Taking it all a step further

The data of importance, and the data to forecast, can come from many different places and is not just the data about an outbreak (sequenced-based pathogens); it can come from where you least expect it. The project will explore citizen science data gathering, vectors of transmission and mine vast quantities of data available (climate change, travel, economic factors).

“Furthermore, the system will support follow-up of such signals where risk of outbreaks is increasing for filling data gaps using sophisticated catch-all methodologies and citizen science for verification and tracking. The systems will support translating combined data into intuitive and interactive interpretation and visualisation tools for users, so users have actionable information they can act upon,” Koopmans adds.

Specifics about the project

The VEO project (Versatile Emerging infectious disease Observatory (VEO) – forecasting, nowcasting and tracking in a changing world) is a five-year research and innovation action funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 framework programme with a budget of approximately 15 million Euros.

The VEO consortium is highly complementary in terms of European geographic coverage, expertise and disciplinary backgrounds and roles in emerging infectious disease preparedness and response with 20 partners from 12 different countries. The broad geographic coverage underscores the true European dimension and relevance of the VEO system and research.
13 JUNE 2024