We had a brief chat with Alexandre Descamps. He represents INSERM, a French research institution which is not only a DRIVE consortium partner, but also provides data to the DRIVE IVE studies as a research collaborator through the IREIVAC network.

– What is the I-REIVAC network (INSERM)?
I-REIVAC (Innovative Clinical Research Network In Vaccinology) is a French research network dedicated to vaccine investigation with more than 10 years of experience in the field of academic clinical trials at the national and European level. Since 2011, I-REIVAC has conducted the FLUVAC study, a multicentre hospital-based TND (Test-Negative Design) study for influenza in France. The network is coordinated by Pr. Odile Launay, head of a Centre of Clinical Investigation, the CIC 1417 Cochin Pasteur under the aegis of INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale). The I-REIVAC network joined the DRIVE project in 2019.

– Why do you consider the DRIVE project relevant to Public Health? Do you think DRIVE’s role has changed given the current pandemic?
From a public health perspective, significant challenges to generate data on influenza vaccine effectiveness (IVE) are still remaining. The DRIVE project is generating brand-specific data that could help make informed decisions to improve influenza programs and recommendations across Europe. Despite COVID-19 challenges, the study platform has been able to provide precise IVE estimates for the 2019-20 season.

– How is communication with study sites being managed by DRIVE?
There are a number of different means of communication with the study sites. These include regular meetings between DRIVE coordinators and study sites, with a main interlocutor to exchange on the ongoing activities, enabling a good understanding of the study development throughout the influenza season. Overall communication, whether it is the DRIVE website, social networks or the newsletter, allows sites to be kept abreast of the progress of the whole project.

– Is an open data strategy the path to follow in DRIVE?
Open data is the key to promoting scientific relevance and developing high-quality collaborative research in the field of IVE studies. DRIVE is currently pushing for an open data strategy, in line with the mandate of the European Commission and IMI, in order to promote the use of the data generated by the DRIVE study sites.

– How well is DRIVE doing as a Public-Private partnership? Does this particular governance model affect your organisation’s participation in the project? Would you recommend it to other Public Health and research institutions in Europe?
DRIVE has developed its own governance model for a public-private partnership, which contributes to the production of relevant scientific results. I would recommend this experience to other public research institutions. Getting the views of various partners with different field experiences (not only academic organisations and public health institutes but also vaccine manufacturers or patient organisations) brings important expertise and perspective.

– Do you think the data sharing and/or the governance model has any wider implications for public health in Europe?
Data sharing through pooling of the data and analysis, especially when monitoring influenza vaccine effectiveness, is a good way to answer questions which could not be answered by one study acting alone.

– Overall, how would you rate your participation in the project?
It is very interesting to be engaged in an EU project like DRIVE, both as partner and study site. Thus, we are involved in the creation/review of scientific documents and the decision-making process, which are two complementary activities.

– How do you see the future for DRIVE? Do you think the sustainability of the project requires a focus on a common IVE platform for COVID-19 and influenza?
DRIVE is calling other organizations to join the project and new partners for the coming seasons are welcome! In a long-term perspective, such a platform should also further develop collaboration and data sharing with external stakeholders. The COVID-19 pandemic poses many challenges and DRIVE has developed a large platform, with standardised tools to monitor influenza vaccines that could be used for other respiratory diseases as well as COVID-19 vaccines.