Skip to main content
ORCHESTRA Partner Meeting

(Long) COVID, vaccination efficacy and immune response: European research project ORCHESTRA finds answers – in broad collaboration

Awards & Grants, EPI, ICB,

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has challenged public health worldwide. The European project ORCHESTRA - Connecting European Cohorts to Increase Common and Effective Response to SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic - was launched in December 2020 to unite European knowledge and resources to find medical answers to the most pressing questions of the crisis. With 37 partners from 15 countries working closely together, ORCHESTRA has evolved into a sustainable multinational network. Helmholtz Munich is one of the partners, and supports the project with expertise in epigenetics and computational biology.

ORCHESTRA is part of HORIZON2020, the EU innovation and funding program, and started with the goal to create a clear understanding of the clinical expression of the SARS-CoV-2-Pandemic - and to deliver recommendations for future health crises. As a large-scale cohort research project, the project unites patient data from the participating partners. Observing long-term symptoms of the disease has been a goal from the beginning of the project on, long before the term “Long COVID” was known - let alone its societal impact. "The ORCHESTRA project" - underlines Prof. Evelina Tacconelli, Director of the Infectious Diseases section at the University of Verona - "now includes, after 2 years from the beginning of the work, more than 60 historical and prospective cohorts for a total of more than one million individuals from 15 countries. Thanks to the work and collaboration of numerous working groups, we are now able to better understand the meaning of Long COVID, which is not a single disease but unfortunately consists of several diseases.”

ORCHESTRA has a strong focus on researching the immunological aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infections and several important findings have been made. One of them is that previous infections seem to play an important role in determining the level of antibodies. Another finding is that immunological responses impact SARS-CoV-2 mutations – antiviral medication can even cause Spike mutations of the virus. Understanding the immune responses in antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 have the potential to improve vaccination efficacy and in particular to better protect the fragile population.

Helmholtz Munich researchers are represented in ORCHESTRA in two functions. The group of Annette Peters, Director of the Institute of Epidemiology (EPI) at Helmholtz Munich, investigates epigenetic changes that occur in the course of an infection with SARS-CoV-2. Scientists led by Jan Hasenauer, research group leader at the Institute of Computational Biology (ICB) at Helmholtz Munich, are working on statistical analyses of data from various project partners. For this purpose, they are using new approaches such as federated learning, a machine learning technique.

First results and next steps have recently been discussed at the annual project conference in Verona on 21 and 22 November 2022. More than 150 researchers and experts from all over Europe and beyond, as well as representatives from the European Commission (EC), the European Centre for the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) attended the Partner Meeting.


Original press release:
For further information, please visit