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  • KI Projects to Receive Support for SARS-CoV-2 Research

KI Projects to Receive Support for SARS-CoV-2 Research

Mar 16 2020 Read 2253 Times

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet are in the grant negotiation phase in a bid for 9 million euros (95 million kronor) in EU funding for three projects aimed at finding a vaccine, immunotherapies and neutralising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Coordinated by KI’s Matti Sällberg, Qiang Pan Hammarström and Benjamin Murrell. The projects were amongst 17 selected from 91 applications in response to an emergency funding call from the European Commmission earlier this year to increase understanding of the novel coronavirus and preparedness to deal with the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. The EU has also scaled up the allocated amount to a total of 47.5 million euro.

The ‘OpenCorona’ vaccine development project is looking to conduct the first trials in humans in 2021 at the Karolinska University Hospital. Matti Sällberg, head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine, said: “With this funding from the EU we will have secured a significant part of the financing going forward, which means that we can focus entirely on the research. It is a relief to know that we are now financed all the way to studies in humans.”

The ‘Antibody Therapy Against Coronavirus’ will develop passive immunotherapy against SARS-CoV-2 with the help of donated blood samples from recovered COVID-19 patients. With experimental and computational work, they plan to optimise, produce and test human polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies for treatment of patients with COVID-19. “Passive immunisation with antibodies has proven to be highly efficient for treatment and prevention of infectious human diseases for which vaccines are not available,” says Qiang Pan Hammarström, professor in clinical immunology. “Therefore, we believe that antibodies represent a weapon of choice to treat the disease and prevent continued spread of the virus globally.”

The ’CoroNAb’ neutralising antibodies project aims to identify antibody candidates that could be used for treatment and prevention in humans before the world has access to a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

 “Many existing drugs are antibodies so there is extensive experience with this form of treatment” says Assistant Professor Ben Murrell. “Antibodies are responsible for the protective immunity developed after vaccinations or infections and so we know a great deal about the role of antibodies in the context of infection. Access to an arsenal of efficient anti-viral antibodies will be important to help control the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

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