AWS Public Sector Blog

European Convalescent Plasma Collection Platform: Data-driven initiative to fight COVID-19

woman about to get her blood drawn

Photo by Creators Collective on Unsplash

The European Commission, with three of its Directorates-General (DG) (Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), Informatics (DG DIGIT), and Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT)) in collaboration with the European Blood Alliance (EBA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), created the European Union (EU) COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) Platform. This database is based on the concept of passive immunization (an approach promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Blood Regulators Network), which tests the potential of plasma collected from convalescent persons to treat or prevent viruses and diseases such as COVID-19.

The EU CCP Platform has a web interface where blood establishments can enter anonymous COVID-19 convalescent plasma donations and patient outcomes (of transfusion). The data is then analyzed and visualized using publicly available interactive dashboards. The goal is to gauge the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in treating the virus. Blood establishments will previously have had to register using EUSurvey. The initiative solicits participation from blood establishments and through them, clinicians, hospitals, and individual donors. The European Blood Alliance analyzes the collected data and general findings will be made available on the website for researchers to use in advancing studies on the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in the treatment of COVID-19. Get more information on how to participate in this study.

Big Data Test Infrastructure and the CCP Platform structure

The Big Data Test Infrastructure (BDTI), part of the Connecting Europe Facility programme, promotes big data to support the public administration’s initiatives in the EU and interconnect Europe’s national digital landscapes through digital infrastructure. BDTI hosts the EU CCP Platform and provides a ready-to-use, virtual environment to gather and analyze data and the wider monitored use of the experimental therapy. The EU CCP Platform was built on the open source technology stack offered by BDTI and complemented by Amazon Web Services (AWS) technologies.

The EU CCP Platform consists of four components: 1) information on participating blood establishments and their working protocols, 2) information on CCP donations, 3) information on clinical protocols that are being followed across the EU—whether highly structured clinical trials or broader monitored use, and 4) recipient outcomes. All participating establishments can access the EU CCP Platform.

By using AWS and the cloud-based infrastructure such as BDTI, initiatives like the EU CCP platform are able to experiment with a testing environment and adopt big data technologies and data analytics skills to process data, promote open source technologies, and advance research on convalescent plasma therapy. With the help of AWS Enterprise Support, this project received support from AWS technical account managers, solution architects and subject matter experts during the planning and implementation phase of the EU CCP platform.

AWS and EU CCP Platform Architecture

The EU CCP Platform was developed with the least amount of operational overhead, all while including the necessary foundational elements such as security, flexibility, agility, and extensibility. See Figure 1 for the CCP Platform architecture.

Figure 1: CCP Platform architecture

Figure 1: CCP Platform architecture

With AWS, the platform was able to:

Build a secure, scalable web application

The EU CCP Platform’s front end was developed with React and hosted using AWS Amplify. AWS Amplify is a development platform for building secure, scalable mobile and web applications. By using AWS Amplify’s comprehensive application development functionalities, the EU CCP Platform can authenticate users, securely store data and user metadata, authorize selective access to data, and execute server-side code. Additionally, the EU CCP Database is served via Amazon CloudFront, a secure and reliable content delivery network with over 200 hundred Points of Presence (PoPs) available globally.

Authenticate multiple end users

One of the functional requirements of developing the EU CCP Platform was to ensure that the application was able to authenticate multiple end users. This was made possible by using the built-in authentication functionalities provided by Amazon Cognito. Amazon Cognito helps the platform have user sign-up, sign-in, and access control, created with a few lines of code. It provides deep integration capabilities with their identity provider (using SAML 2.0) and supports sign-ins using social identity providers. Amazon Cognito also natively integrates with AWS Amplify, providing the building blocks to quickly build a secure and scalable web application.

Secure web applications against malicious attacks

Although the EU CCP Platform application uses the essential authentication and authorization mechanisms for user access, the application itself also needs to be protected against malicious external attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). The EU CCP Platform uses AWS Shield as a managed service for safeguarding its application on AWS. AWS Shield provides sophisticated protection against some of the most common network and transport layer DDoS attacks that can target your website or applications. AWS customers benefit from this automatic protection of AWS Shield Standard, at no additional charge.

Run computations — serverless

For performing data transformations and entries, the EU CCP Platform required a form of computation that was easy to use and execute and provided abstraction from the complex operational overheads such as regular OS patching, maintenance, security, and scalability. The EU CCP Platform adopted a serverless approach using AWS Lambda. With AWS Lambda, the platform can run code for virtually any type of application or back-end services without having to manage any underlying servers or capacity.

Simplify database management using Database-as-a-service

The EU CCP Platform required a PostgreSQL database for the application’s back end. This database is used to store information such as the details on the blood donations (antibody levels, time of collection from recovery, and volumes), blood transfusions (volumes transfused, time from disease onset, and number of transfusions), and clinical outcome data (virus measurements, changes in oxygen needs, need for ventilation, and hospitalization time). To run this database securely and at scale, the EU selected Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Amazon RDS provides a range of open source (including PostgreSQL) and commercial databases that customers can choose from based on their requirements. PostgreSQL was used for the EU CCP Platform as it is offered in the BDTI. With Amazon RDS, the platform can deploy and scale in minutes with cost-efficient and resizable hardware capacity.

Store data securely and without limits

For storing blood donation data and user registration info, the EU CCP Platform uses native object store service Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The EU can store virtually unlimited quantities of data securely with unmatched durability and advanced in-built security features to store and manage their data and its access.

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