A Vaccine Against Corona – Research at Full Speed

A vaccine against corona would be the breakthrough and probably the rescue for millions of people. Scientists around the world are feverishly searching for a serum against the virus. Researchers from Central Hessen are also working tirelessly to find the substance that will save lives globally.

A vaccine against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 will save millions of people. But it has yet to be developed. Credit: Mongkolchon Akesin/shutterstock.com

Healthcare experts from Central Hessen are also involved in the world’s race to find a corona vaccine: The Institute of Virology at the Philipps University of Marburg, for example, is an important authority in the development of vaccinations. In Marburg, the Institute is working in cooperation with other scientists within the German Centre for Infection Research. In doing so, the researchers are relying on what information is already available and building a new vaccine from a finished so-called ‘vaccine platform’ along with part of the respective new virus. But their efforts are challenging: “The development of a vaccine is a lengthy, laborious process, especially the clinical testing for the approval of a candidate. It cannot be done in a few weeks,” said Stephan Becker, Director of the Virology Institute at the Philipps University of Marburg, in an interview with Germany’s ZDF Television. Becker likes to compare the vaccine’s development with a Lego car: “You have the car ready. All you need are the tyres: You put them on, and then the thing is ready,” said Becker in an interview with hr-info.

Top Hessen Research in Marburg

“We are very proud of our top-level research in Hessen in this field,” emphasized Angela Dorn, Minister of Science in Hessen, during a visit to the Marburg Centre of the Institute and the DRUID research centre, which is funded as part of the Hessen research promotion initiative LOEWE. “In Marburg, we have a competence centre that holds an exceptional position both nationally and internationally in the diagnosis and research of highly infectious diseases,” Dorn added.

Giessen University Conducts Research in a European Network

Scientists at the Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Germany, are also working with partners in Sweden and Italy on the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine’s prerequisites were created by the publication of the virus genome by Chinese researchers and the establishment of a vaccination platform, which was part of a previous EU project among the partners. Funding from the European Union is now ensuring that vaccine candidates can be optimized and tested in clinical trials as quickly as possible. As one example, The OPENCORONA (Rapid Therapy Development through Open Coronavirus Vaccine Platform) Project, led by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, will be funded by the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (“Horizon 2020”) for two years, with an estimated three million euros. The Justus Liebig University of Giessen is connected with the working group of Prof. Dr. Friedemann Weber at the Institute of Virology in the Department of Veterinary Medicine.

The potential vaccines are so-called ‘DNA vaccines,’ based on the viral genetic material. Weber’s research group uses cell cultures to investigate how the innate immune system reacts to the different vaccine candidates. The researchers intend to start testing the vaccines in animal models as soon as possible. If everything goes according to plan, the first human trials will most likely begin in 2021 and will take place at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. The researchers will not, of course, keep their results to themselves. “We will continue to disclose our data so that other scientists – and ultimately all of us – can also benefit from them,” said Prof. Dr. Friedemann Weber.

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