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06/04/2020 – Spotlight on ERINHA new member research on SARS-CoV-2

ERINHA welcomes its newest Member: The Rega Institute for Medical Research of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium

The Rega Institute for Medical Research of KU Leuven joined ERINHA infrastructure in February 2020. The institute has a long-standing experience and expertise in the discovery and development of antiviral drugs. Notably, in collaboration with the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (A. Holy, Praque), the Laboratory of Virology and Experimental Chemotherapy of the Rega Institute discovered Tenofovir, now the most widely used drug for the treatment of HIV infection worldwide.

The institute’s innovative research has since been extended to examine viruses such as dengue, rabies virus, respiratory syncytial virus, filoviruses (e.g. Ebola virus), enteroviruses, alphaviruses, and coronaviruses (e.g. SARS CoV 2). The Institute’s research has resulted in patents and ongoing large research funding.

Its unique CAPS-IT research infrastructure – an automated platform for multi-parameter data collection on live pathogens of higher or unknown biosafety risk – brings a new important capacity to ERINHA users.

KU LEVUEN ADVANCING RESEARCH ON THERAPEUTICS

High-throughput testing of antiviral agents (molecules and biologicals) against SARS-CoV-2

Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) commissioned KU Leuven to conduct a large Coronavirus study. The BMGF provided samples of ~13,000 therapeutic molecules (REFRAME library) to leverage research towards a therapy to combat the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The aim is to identify one or more anti SARS CoV 2 molecules that can be rapidly deployed while the current outbreak is still ongoing. The virology lab led by Professor Johan Neyts, performs the work.

The Rega Institute, with its ultra-bio-safe CAPS-IT research infrastructure, ERINHA’s new Associate member, is perhaps the only one in the world with the capacity to test thousands of candidate molecules at high speed in phenotypic assays with infectious, highly pathogenic viruses. Fully automated, it runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Partnering with Johnson & Johnson and BARDA for SARS-CoV-2 research

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson announced on 30 March, 2020, that it is partnering with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund over $1 billion in COVID-19 vaccine and antiviral treatment research and development.
BARDA’s partnership with J&J encompasses also research and development of potent antiviral treatments in addition to the work that is being performed to develop a vaccine against the disease.
The efforts of testing Janssen’s libraries’ of molecules as well as those of several other pharmaceutical companies will be conducted in partnership with the ERINHA member, Rega Institute for Medical Research of KU Leuven, Belgium.