COVID-19 Activities

Ongoing research activities at our partner sites to combat the coronavirus pandemic

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, EU-OPENSCREEN screening and chemistry partners are contributing their expertise and resources to a vast number of activities, from searching antiviral drugs for the SARS-CoV-2 with focus on drug repurposing, to the development and implementation of diagnostic tests and screening patients’ samples for the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

To support this research effort, EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC has made available its Bioactives library of 2.500 compounds, which are modulating over 1000 known targets. The library consists of 654 approved drugs and 368 highly selective probes, used for screening projects at our partner sites. For more information, contact us at covid-19@eu-openscreen.eu.

The efforts partner sites are taking in combating the current outbreak are listed below:

Czech Republic (CZ):

Germany (DE):

Spain (ES):

Finland (FI):

Latvia (LV):

Poland (PL):

 

Detailed activities

Czech Republic (CZ)

The Institute of Molecular Genetics AS CR, v. v. i. (IMG)

Main contact: bartunek@img.cas.cz

Dr. Petr Bartůněk and his team are participating in the Coronatest-hackathon (the Czech academic initiative) to screen for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the Czech population. In particular:

  • IMG optimized RNA isolation using in-house methods for large-scale testing. The adapted high-throughput workflow for RNA isolation and preparation of RT-qPCR reaction could be deployed in the future in case of any other pandemic, which will require immediate action.
  • IMG developed the internal database CORONAbase, which enables tracking samples throughout the testing process. CORONAbase will be available via open-access, facilitating its use by other laboratories involved in COVID-19 testing, where it can be used for data management and improving testing services and standards.

Germany (DE)

The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Department of Chemical Biology (CBIO)

Main contact: Mark.Broenstrup@helmholtz-hzi.de

Main contact compound screening and profiling: Ursula.Bilitewski@helmholtz-hzi.de

Prof. Mark Brönstrup and Prof. Ursula Bilitewski are undertaking several screening and chemical optimization campaigns. In particular:

  • HZI offers a fully automated system for screening campaigns under BSL2-conditions, suitable for either target-based assays or phenotypic assays using the coronavirus H229E. The activity of identified hits from target-based screens against the whole virus SARS-CoV-2 can be validated in the BSL3 laboratory. This laboratory is also fully equipped for smaller screening campaigns using a semi-automated system
  • HZI offers support for chemical optimization of compounds and for evaluation of preclinical parameters, such as ADME-Tox and PK/PD properties
  • HZI is a partner in the EU project SCORE “Swift Coronavirus therapeutics response” which aims to develop antiviral drugs against SARS-CoV-2.

Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), Department ScreeningPort

Main contact: Bernhard.Ellinger@ime.fraunhofer.de

Dr. Bernhard Ellinger, Dr. Phil Gribbon, Dr. Sheraz Gul, Dr. Mira Grättinger, Dr. Ole Pless, and Dr. Andrea Zaliani, using their 4Ds (drugs, data, devices, diagnostics) competency in Drug Repurposing, Medical Data Science for COVID-19 data, and validation and pilot studies for COVID-19 tools, are active in:

  • the screening of the Fraunhofer Repurposing Set (BROAD Library; approx. 5.600 compounds) in a viral replication assay using the human cell line Caco-2
  • Computer-Aided Drug Design (CADD) in combination with High-Throughput Screening (HTS) (biochemical and phenotypic), making use of the EU-OPENSCREEN bioactives library (2464 compounds), in the frame of the recently funded EU-project EXSCALATE4CoV
  • opening the “COVID-19 Knowledge Space”, a real-time monitor for scientific data and publications in the area of SARS-CoV-2/ COVID-19 for the identification of potential targets for Drug Discovery (e.g. for drug repurposing)
  • participation in several national applications in the frame of a COVID-19 rapid response call (Förderaufruf zur Erforschung von COVID-19 im Zuge des Ausbruchs von SARS-CoV-2) and the Fraunhofer internal “Anti-Corona-Programme” focusing on the use of the Fraunhofer Repurposing Set in the fields of systems biology, lung models and animal models
  • set-up of a repository and data management for repurposing compounds (corona.repurposing@ime.fraunhofer.de).

Please click here to download all IME activities related to the of SARS-CoV-2/ COVID-19 research.

Spain (ES)

FUNDACION MEDINA, Screening and target validation, Microbiology and Chemistry

Main contact: olga.genilloud@medinaandalucia.es

Dr. Olga Genilloud and her team are looking for new therapeutic and diagnostic solutions for SARS-CoV-2:

  • by developing in-vitro screening approaches focused on viral and host targets
  • by planning antiviral discovery programs on target-based assays with MEDINA natural products libraries and external libraries. Planned assays include i) inhibitors of receptor:ligand binding ACE2:Cov-2 Spike, ii) yeast cell-based platforms for target-directed High-Throughput Screening (HTS) of SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors (i.e. conditionally expressed main virus protease in multidrug sensitive Saccharomyces cerevisiae), iii) search for ligands of human Syntenin that is the host partner of the E protein from SARS-CoV-I and SARS-CoV-2 (Thermofluor assay), iv ) search for molecules blocking the interaction between SARS-CoV-E/human-Syntenin and for molecules blocking the interaction between human Syntenin/human ALIX-V (AlphaScreen assay)
  • by identifying predictive and prognostic metabolomic biomarkers associated to the infection evolution from inactivated samples from COVID-19 patients at different infection stages.

FUNDACION MEDINA is looking for partners with BSL3 virus inhibition assays and infection animal models to test the antiviral activity of MEDINA malaria hits (Spanish Tropical Diseases network), and natural product analogs of drugs recently reported active on SARS-CoV-2 targets.

Prince Felipe Research Center (CIPF), Advanced Therapies Program, Screening Platform

Main contact: mjvicent@cipf.es

Dr. María J. Vicent is involved in collaborative research activities related to:

  • restoring the balance of the host immune response against COVID-19
  • evaluation of new strategies for the comprehensive restoration of body homeostasis in patients with COVID-19.

In this approach one of the tasks of CIPF is to carry out a screening to identify new drugs capable of compensating COVID-19 induced mitochondrial loss and metabolic disfunction.

University of Santiago de Compostela (USC), BioFarma Research Group

Main contact: mabel.loza@usc.es

Prof. Mabel Loza, is involved in research activities geared towards drug repurposing against virus key targets and protein production for vaccines. BioFarma Research group is involved:

  • in public-private collaborations with a panel of assays for the interactome of SARS-CoV-2 (Hoffman et al., 2020; Gordon et al., 2020) focusing on:
    • ACE2 activity modulation detected using a fluorescent substrate (Dales et al., 2002). 
    • TMPRSS2 activity modulation detected using a fluorescent substrate (Meyer et al., 2013). 
    • ACE2-TMPRSS2 interaction through label-free Dynamic Mass Redistribution (DMR)
    • Sigma1 receptor radioligand binding studies
    • HDAC2 modulation by means of microfluidic mobility shift assays

        More information can be found here.

  • in the framework of ES-OPENSCREEN and REDEFAR, USC is coordinating alongside other Spanish partners the initiative CO-SYNERGIES. This aims to support leaders of new programs concerning COVID-19, both in the public and private sectors, and to implement their solutions by identifying experts and/ or complementary funding. More information can be found here.

To get in contact with the BioFarma research Group please write to biofarma.group@esc.es.

Finland (FI)

University of Helsinki (UH), Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), High Throughput Biomedicine (HTB) unit

Main contact: paivi.tammela@helsinki.fi

Prof. Päivi Tammela and Dr. Jani Sareela, are performing screening for both target and cell-based assays, also with full virus in collaboration with the Department of Virology, Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, and Helsinki University Hospital (HUS). The HTB unit offers access to:

Latvia (LV)

Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (OSI)

Main contact: aigars@osi.lv

Prof. Aigars Jirgensons and Dr. Osvalds Pugovics, as EU-OPENSCREEN medicinal chemistry site, are dealing with:

  • drug re-purposing including the use of the drugs to facilitate the treatment of COVID-19 complications
  • planning the development of manufacturing technologies for perspective generics (small molecules)
  • planning discovery programs for improving future antiviral drug repositories.

OSI is open to collaboration offering their drug discovery/ technology development expertise. Particularly, OSI is seeking for partners with capabilities and expertise in antiviral infection models.

Poland (PL)

Institute of Medical Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences (IMB PAS), Screening laboratory for anti-viral and anti-bacterial compounds

Main contact: zlesnikowski@cbm.pan.pl

Prof. Dr. Zbigniew J. Leśnikowski, is taking part in research on the search for new therapeutic and diagnostic methods for SARS-CoV-2 as well as basic research on the molecular aspects of the physiology and pathology of the virus. IMB PAS is involved in:

  • collaborative testings with their National Chemical Compounds Library (NCCL) created at IMB PAS. The resources of NCCL are available for screening in search for new bioactive compounds, including antiviral compounds. Screening of the library of compounds synthesized at IMB PAN, analogues of remdesivir as well as other molecules for anti-coronavirus activity are currently ongoing
  • supporting the organization and functioning of a new COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory at the Clinical and Didactic Center of the Medical University of Lodz together with the Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection at the same university, and Proteon Pharmaceuticals S.A. The laboratory started operating on March 23, 2020, and professor Maciej Borowiec was appointed as its head. Currently, IMB PAN together with Proteon Pharmaceuticals is creating a satellite Screening Center towards SARS-CoV-2 focused on fast, screening detection of people who are carriers of the virus.

Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Science (IBCH PAS), Centre for High-Throughput Screening Studies, Department of Molecular and Systems Biology, Department of RNA Structural Genomics, Department of Crystallography

Main contact: jacek.kolanowski@ibch.poznan.pl

Dr. Radosław Pilarski, Dr. Jacek Kolanowski, Dr. Magdalena Otrocka and their teams are actively working on a vast array of activities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on the search of new therapeutic and diagnostic solutions for SARS-CoV-2. Currently, the institute is:

  • developing and adapting assays for screening of binders/ inhibitors of viral proteins/ RNA/ virus-host interactions (contacts: J. Kolanowski, R. Pilarski, M. Otrocka)
  • performing tests for COVID-19 (supporting the Polish Healthcare system by aiding medical diagnostic labs with infrastructure and expertise), re-constituting classic PCR diagnostic tests from their own resources (contacts: M. Figlerowicz, L. Handschuh)
  • performing investigations on viral RNA structures as well as virus-host recognition and infection mechanisms (contacts: E. Kierzek, R. Kierzek, P. Zmora)
  • performing structural biology investigations on viral and host protein interactions, host proteins involved in infection (contacts: M. Jaskólski, M. Ruszkowski
  • searching for faster diagnostics tests (e.g. by fluorescence) (contact: J. Kolanowski). A first Polish test has been developed at IBCH PAS and approved for use in Poland as an alternative to commercial ones.

ICBH PAS offers priority access for COVID-19 related projects to their infrastructure and expertise in:

  • high throughput screening (HTS) of thousands of compounds in 96 and 384 well plates with detection through absorbance, fluorescence, time-resolved fluorescence, alphaScreen, bioluminescence and high content confocal imaging 
  • combinatorial screening of mixtures of compounds for maximal biological activity (e.g. cocktails of drugs or bioactives up to 24) 
  • adaptation of protein, RNA and cell-based assays to high-throughput formats (safety level 2 - only non-infectious viral models, human cell-cultures).

Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics (IBB), Polish Academy of Sciences

Main contact: piotr@ibb.waw.pl

Prof. Dr. Piotr Zielenkiewicz and his team are taking part in:

  • organization and operation of the new COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory, which is headed by Prof. Urszula Demkow from the University Clinical Center of the Warsaw Medical University
  • research activities aimed at developing an COVID-19 therapy based on phage therapy and the use of nanoproteins within the “M13VHH CoV2” project financed by the Medical Research Agency and in cooperation of the National Institute of Oncology and the Medical University of Warsaw (Prof. Tomasz Sarnowski)
  • virtual screening campaigns focused on: i) virtual search for protein ligands; ii) search for peptide protein-protein interaction inhibitors; and iii) identifying and attempting to experimentally verify the use of plant miRNAs that may affect the multiplication and assembly of COVID-19.