Bioengineering to fight Covid-19

Yesterday took place the kick-off meeting of the european project MAD-CoV 2, in which participates the group led by ICREA Research Professor Núria Montserrat at IBEC.

Under the name of “Modern approaches for developing antivirals against SARS-CoV 2” (MAD-CoV 2) the project focuses on the development and delivery of therapeutic tools for the current COVID-19 outbreak.

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The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has claimed the life of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and has become an unprecedented burden to public health, our society and the global economy. To provide frontline therapies for COVID-19 and future corona virus outbreaks, the MAD-CoV-2 is a EU-funded project that has assembled a multidisciplinary team of world-leading researchers and innovative industry partners that will work together for four years with a budget of 6.405.168,75€ and the European Comission will contribute with a total of 3.749.668,75€, and the rest of the funding is provided by private companies.

The project is composed by 9 partners, the leading institution of the project is the National Veterinary Institute from Sweden, together with the Inserm Transfert S.A from France, the Institut Fuer Molekulare Biotechnologie GMGH, Health GmbH and APEIRON Biologics AG the three of them from Austria, the Justus-Liebig-Universitaet Giessen in Germany, STEMCELL Technologies UK LTD from the United Kingdom and Vironova AB from Sweden. Núria Montserrat and her team join this consortium as a renowned group in tissue engineering and in the development of human organoids -cellular models that simulate the complexity of such organs in the culture dish- from induced stem cells.

MAD-CoV 2 will identify new targets for the rapid development of novel antivirals against SARS-CoV-2 and will also perform high-throughput screening to identify host factor interactions that are critical for viral replication. As a result, it will be possible to rapidly translate this knowledge into novel therapies to fight the current and possible future coronavirus outbreaks.

Using 3D organoid technology as an infection model system

Núria Montserrat and her team will focus on the validation and characterisation of the newly identified host cell interactors as therapeutic targets by using kidney organoids. Specifically, the team will work on the identification of peptides and antiviral compounds that interact with S protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Thanks to consortium’s expertise in the generation of organoids from adult stem cells and stem cells, the effectiveness of the compounds will be evaluated by using organoid models of the lung, colon and kidney.

Further research will be carried out to prevent possible future epidemics caused by other coronaviruses to identify common Achilles’ heels and thereby develop drugs and disruptive applicable strategies to combat possible future viral pandemic.

This project was born as part of the EU response to the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, under the framework of the H2020 program, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) announced this new call of involving an investment of €45 million in research funding for research teams that can demonstrate their ability to develop tests and/or treatments for COVID-19 that will reach the market as rapidly as possible. Due to the large number and the high-quality proposals (144 proposals were submited) IMI decided to increase the IMI funding allocated to this Call up to 72 million that will fund a total of 8 projects. On top of this, EFPIA companies, IMI Associated Partners and other organisations will contribute in this call.