The UAB and campus research centres tackle coronavirus outbreak

Imatge de laboratori biolÚgic

The UAB has made available to the Department of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya the laboratories of the INC, the IBB, the faculties and the scientific and technical services to work on the detection of the COVID-19 and has loaned to hospitals detection equipment and sent protection gear. In addition, two campus research centres, IRTA-CReSA and ICN2, are working on projects for its diagnosis and treatment.


In the field of diagnosis, the UAB has made available several laboratories for the virus detection, such as those of the Institute of Neurosciences (INc), the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB), the faculties of Medicine, Biosciences and Veterinary, as well as the scientific and technical services.

In addition, the University has loaned three coronavirus detection devices to the Hospital Parc Taulí and has has also sent protective material to healthcare personnel at the hospitals Vall d'Hebron, Sant Pau i Santa Creu, Parc Taulí, Germans Trias i Pujol and Hospital del Mar. The same hospitals were also offered the UAB Open Labs'  3D printing capability for the manufacture of medical devices.

For its part, the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) is leading a European project, headed by Professor Laura M. Lechuga, to develop a point-of-care platform for rapid diagnosis and monitoring of coronavirus. The CONVAT project will provide a new device based on optical biosensor nanotechnology that will allow the detection of coronavirus in about 30 minutes, directly from the patient's sample and without the need for testing in centralized clinical laboratories

The project has a duration of two years, however, since it is based on previous know-how, results are expected to be produced in less than a year. This new technology could also quickly identify whether it is a common coronavirus or flu infection. The project indeed aims to extend beyond the current pandemic and the human diagnosis. The new biosensor device will also be used for the analysis of different types of coronavirus present in reservoir animals, such as bats, in order to observe and monitor possible evolutions of these viruses and prevent future outbreaks in humans.

With regard to the treatment of the disease, the Animal Health Research Center (CReSA) of the Institute for Research and Agrifood Technology (IRTA) has consorted with the IrsiCaixa and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center to find an antiviral drug for treat COVID-19.

There are many types of antivirals available today that could be used to treat the disease, but it is necessary to know which need to be ruled out and which are useful against this new coronavirus. In addition, and thinking of a long-term solution in case a second wave of the disease appeared, the consortium also wants to develop a vaccine to prevent future infections. In this regard, the consortium wants to design and test a vaccine that works not only for SARS-CoV-2, but against all coronaviruses or, that is, a universal vaccine against all coronaviruses.

This project will receive financial resources from the Catalan company Grifols and is expected to last within two and three years. It will include three steps: first, the modeling tests, followed by in vitro laboratory tests; finally, animal model studies before moving on to clinical trials in humans.


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