SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the name of a new Coronavirus that was identified in the city of Wuhan in the Chinese province Hubei in January 2020. The virus causes the disease COVID-19 and was declared as a pandemic by WHO on 11th March 2020.
acib as the largest Austrian research centre for biotechnology is responsible to use its competences and possibilities to conduct solution-oriented fast-track research in the context with COVID-19. The unique constellation of complementary research fields of biotechnology allows us to react very fast and to work comprehensively on a variety of topics that contribute to a solution that is urgently needed.

COVID-19 DRUG DISCOVERY & SCREENING


Bioinformatic screening

The objective of this measure is the identification of suitable drugs for the repurposing against SARS-CoV-2. For a fast process the research group FASTCURE was initiated by Innophore, University of Graz and acib. The group is cooperating with Harvard Medical School and Google. The Google parent company Alphabet provides unlimited computing time of Google cloud. This approach allows a screening of approximately 2 billion compounds in terms of binding characteristics towards SARS-CoV-2 main protease (MPro), a key enzyme for the viral replication. Other target proteins could be, for example, helicase or the viral polymerase. A crucial part for the approach is a process called “Virtual Flow” of Harvard Medical School: Innophore supports this process by providing its patented 3D-point cloud technology that simulates numerous entry points and allows to filter them with the help of articifial intelligence.

Contact: Christian Gruber

Bacterial in vivo selection system for experimental validations

Bacterial in vivo selection system for experimental validations

The bacterial in vivo selection system was developed at acib and at the University of Innsbruck and is applicable for the drug screening against coronaviral proteases, such as MPro and PLPro as well. First of all, a bacterial strain (eg E. coli) is genetically programmed for the production of the target protein (eg SARS-CoV-2 MPro) and, secondly, it is going to be modified in a way that the strain can only survive by inhibition of this viral target protein. This can be achieved by integrating a perfect MPro cutting surface into an essential bacterial enzyme. As soon as the MPro production is initiated (induced), the essential enzyme is going to be inactivated and the strain is killed. By adding potential drugs against SARS-CoV-2 to the MPro producing strain, the culture can only survive when MPro is effectively inhibited. In this high-throuphput approach the selection is performed in vivo, which means that the inhibitor (drug) can enter the cell and shows neither toxicity towards basic cellular functions nor unspecific inhibition of essential bacterial proteins. Currently, we look for interested company partners intensively.

endSARS

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ProFabSARS

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KINaCoV-2

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CURES –
SARS-CoV-2

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MUTATRACER –
SARS-CoV-2

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HOPE –
SARS-CoV-2

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Contact: Rainer Schneider

Remdesivir synthesis

Remdesivir synthesis

Remdesivir (GS-5734) is a nucleotide-analogue broad-spectrum antiviral drug against RNA-Viruses such as Ebola, Marburg Virus and several types of Coronaviruses. It is currently being studied in multiple clinical trials as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Due to its complex structure (see Figure) chemical synthesis is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. acib and its partners from University of Graz have long-lasting experience in chemo-enzymatic synthesis of pharmaceutical compounds. They have designed concepts to integrate biocatalysis in a more efficient faster and less-expensive manufacturing of Remdesivir which is also applicable for other pharmaceuticals.

Contact: Wolfgang Kroutil
COVID-19 DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS


Diagnostic approach for the detection of secondary infections

Diagnostic approach for the detection of secondary infections

In the frame of COMET3 and in cooperation with CNA Diagnostics (94091) we explore the topic of secondary infections. Previous data have shown that, especially, those patients with a serious COVID-19 progress had to cope with secondary infections (nosocomial infections). The project deals with the early detection of these infections with the help of biomarkers. We develop diagnostic tools for the detection of human sepsis in up to two days ahead of clinical symptoms. This could be relevant also in the context of viral primary respiratory infections. The current approach aims at accompanying actual diagnostics for COVID 19 and at delivering an outlook for the needs of testing infrastructure in Austria and beyond in order to minimize or even avoid a crisis, such as the actual one. Picture by Lucas Grumet

PRESS RELEASE


Contact: Christoph Sensen

Biomarker based rapid tests for the detection of COVID-19 and secondary infections

Biomarker based rapid tests for the detection of COVID-19 and secondary infections

Based on long-lasting experience and patents, we developed a rapid biomarker (enzymatic) test for the detection of infections that delivers results within minutes. Regarding COVID-19, the development of a rapid test system for the detection of bacterial secondary infections (eg Pneumonia) is of utmost importance. A company project with partner Qualizyme Diagnostics released promising results for the detection of infections in Sputum. In the frame of an FFG project, we explore the development of a direct detection procedure of COVID-19 through a simple, colour-based test system.



Contact: Georg Gübitz
COVID-19 VACCINE DEVELOPMENT


Recombinant SARS-CoV2 antibodies and viral glycoproteins

Recombinant SARS-CoV2 antibodies and viral glycoproteins

Plant-based expression platforms turned out to be an ideal tool for the production of glycoproteins such as monoclonal antibodies (mAb) with an optimized glycosylation profile. The system was successfully applied for instance in the context with the drug ZMapp, used for Ebola treatment and consisting of a mixture of 3 glycan-optimzed mAbs. Currently, our research group is working on the expression of an antibody that is able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2. The technology allows a fast production of several mAb variants (isotypes, glycovariants). This enables us to a rapid evaluation and further selection of highly efficient mAbs for therapeutic use. Furthermore, we are eager to produce a glycan-optimized SARS-CoV-2 protein (RMD) for the development of a serological test.

Rapid expression of
SARS-CoV-2 glycoproteins

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Rapid expression of
SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies

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Contact: Herta Steinkellner