When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic found its way to Europe in spring of 2020, several scientists at the Vienna BioCenter re-aligned their expertise, facilities and creativity to address the challenges posed by Covid-19. The rapid response resulted in several initiatives with lasting impact.
Some of the most significant endeavours are documented below. They illustrate the high quality of research at the Vienna BioCenter; and moreover, the fact that most initiatives drew from several institutes, they are testimony to the collaborative spirit that ties this campus together.
In April 2020, a SARS-CoV-2 monitoring scheme was rolled out at the Vienna BioCenter, later giving rise to similar operations at much larger scales. Its main pillars are biweekly self-sampling through gargling, the analysis via PCR, and the quick dissemination of results to all participants. Here we show a photo series that illustrates step-by-step how our monitoring works in detail.
The Vienna COVID-19 Detection Initiative (VCDI) is a collaborative, inter-institutional effort to combat the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The initiative of research institutes at the Vienna BioCenter and the University of Vienna has repurposed existing resources and invested in new infrastructure to develop capacities for detecting SARS-CoV-2.
A key to handling future pandemics may lie in the simultaneous analysis of samples from thousands of individuals for different pathogens. Scientists from the Vienna BioCenter used Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to accomplish this and used this technique "SARseq" to monitor SARS-CoV-2 mutant strands in Austria.
To help fight the pandemic, specialty vaccine company Valneva has developed VLA2001. As of April 2021, it is the only inactivated vaccine candidate in clinical trials against COVID-19 in clinical development in Europe.
Covid-19 is a complex and dynamic disease with severe symptoms and long sequelae is predicted to become endemic with approximately 100 million cases a year, despite the rollout of vaccines and therapies, many of which have failed. The Vienna BioCenter’s APEIRON has long worked on a drug candidate that could now turn to a vital therapeutic.
Scientists from the Vienna BioCenter used the loop-mediated isothermal amplification reaction (LAMP), a reaction that multiplies DNA, to develop a SARS-Cov-2 test that is faster and cheaper than PCR, plus easier to do, and open source. Protocols are disseminated free of charge with specific target groups in mind – especially in disadvantaged environments.