DZIF Coronavirus Researchers use “Fast Track”

Research has been called to develop drugs, vaccines and testing methods as quickly as possible to fight the SARScoronavirus-2. A fast-track procedure has made additional funding available to scientists at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) for this purpose.

The research package put together by scientists at the DZIF is pursuing ambitious goals: New diagnostic testing methods, antiviral drugs and a vaccine against the virus are on the agenda.

Prevention: Vaccines do not assemble themselves on their own

DZIF scientists in Munich, Marburg and Hamburg use the expertise previously acquired from developing a vaccine against MERS, a different type of coronavirus. They are using the same vector virus, a smallpox virus which has been modified and rendered harmless, into which they now insert the genetic information of a SARS-CoV-2 surface protein instead of the previously inserted MERS information. The scientists selected a so-called spike protein, which lies on the surface of the virus and enables the virus to enter human cells, to use as a suitable building block.

Treatment: Emergency drugs

The development of antiviral drugs could be faster than the development of a new vaccine. The scientists develop in vitro assays and animal models to serve as a basis for testing antiviral substances. Especially agents which have already been approved for other indications hold promise as drugs which could be used in the short term.

Diagnosis: Rapid and safe tests

Shortly after the outbreak in China in January 2020, DZIF scientists at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin developed the first test for SARS-CoV-2. Using the virus’s genetic information, Prof. Christian Drosten and his team succeeded in developing a test based on the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technique. The test is currently being used worldwide. Now the aim is to refine the test methods as well as to develop and validate new tests which can be used to determine immune responses in the human body.

Source and Further Information

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