COVID-19: Funding boost for coronavirus research

17 March 2020

Scientists put forward the idea of using antibodies from patients who have recovered from nCOVID-19 as a stopgap.

Muriel Cozier

16 March 2020

Ramping up support for research into nCOVID-19, the European Commission has put an additional Euro37.5 million towards research on vaccine development, treatment and diagnosis of the coronavirus. The funding has come from the Horizon 2020 budget and is on top of the Euro10 million given in the emergency call which was launched in January 2020. The new money will also fund research aimed at improving the clinical management of patients infected with the virus and for public health preparedness response.

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Research commented; ‘The emergency funding from Horizon 2020 enable researchers to work immediately to tackle the outbreak of the coronavirus on several fronts.’

The extra funding was prompted by the high volume of ‘quality submissions’ received following the first call in January. The projects selected to date involve 136 research teams from across the EU and beyond. As well as vaccines and therapies, work will also be carried out on risk reduction systems for preventing the spread of nCOVID-19.

In further developments researchers from the US’ Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health estimate that the incubation period for nCOVID-19 is 5.1 days. This median time from exposure to onset of symptoms suggests that the widely recommended 14-day quarantine period for individuals is reasonable, the research team says.

Justin Lessler, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology said, ‘Based on our analysis of publicly available data, the current recommendation of 14 days for active monitoring or quarantine is reasonable, although with that period some cases would be missed over the long-term.’

At the same time infectious diseases experts are proposing the use of antibodies from patients who have recovered from nCOVID-19 as a stopgap measure to treat patients and protect healthcare workers.
In an essay published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation a team from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health write that ‘The infusions of antibody-containing serum fron convalescing patients has a long-term history of effective use as a stopgaps measure against infectious diseases and can be implemented relatively quickly, long before antiviral treatments, monoclonal antibodies and vaccines are developed, approved and available.’

Arturo Casadevall Professor and Chair of the Department of the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said ‘In addition to public health containment and mitigation protocols, this may be our only near-term option for treating and preventing COVID-19, and it is something we can start putting in place in he next few weeks and months.’

Journal of Clinical Investigation: DOI:10.1172/JCI138003

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