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Published: 2020-03-05 18:16 | Updated: 2020-03-05 18:16

The corona virus: How KI provides support and expertise to society and healthcare

The spread of the new corona virus could, if the situation deteriorates, put a considerable strain on society. Karolinska Institutet has a great deal of relevant expertise and competence, and an explicit ambition to be at the disposal of society and the healthcare services to provide support and help if and when needed.

The Swedish authorities and healthcare sector have been working intensely for some time now on preparations for different conceivable scenarios around the spread of the new coronavirus. In this context, resources of various kinds are potentially in great demand.

“Karolinska Institutet possesses a great deal of knowledge and skills, and as a medical university it goes without saying that we’ll be there to provide support and help when society requires it, be it spreading knowledge, providing practical resources, whatever,” says KI president Ole Petter Ottersen.

Analyse corona tests

One question that has already been asked of KI is whether the university’s laboratory equipment can help to analyse corona samples if the regular labs in Region Stockholm become overloaded.

“We’re in continual discussion with the health authority about this very issue,” says Matti Sällberg, head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, KI. “Our lab equipment is not accredited for use in direct patient-related work, but there are no difficulties today gaining access to equipment. On the other hand there could be a shortage of personnel, and because of this KI, in consultation with the relevant personnel and Region Stockholm, has started to prepare for reinforcing labs with KI personnel, provided, that is, they have the right competence and it has the approval of all those involved.”

The Covid-19 Group

A special Covid-19 Group was set up at KI last week comprising eight researchers with diverse expertise.

“It’s part of our mission to contribute to society’s need for knowledge, competence and cooperation,” says group chair Jan Albert. “So, for example, through the members of our group, KI is already providing expert support to the National Board of Health and Welfare, Region Stockholm, Karolinska University Hospital and supplying medical experts to many of the relevant authorities.”

To President Ole Petter Ottersen, the university’s outreach work is a central part of its activities:

“Our strategy 2030 stresses the importance of KI being active and engaged in the health of humankind, globally, nationally and locally. What’s happening now with the spread of the new coronavirus is an example that encapsulates all of this. It therefore goes without saying that KI will also place its resources and knowledge at the disposal of society and the healthcare sector. Many of the KI staff have combined appointments and are already helping with the planning and care. If we need to reprioritise internally as a result of this, so be it.”