Eastern Arc researchers collaborate to develop Covid-19 vaccine

05 April 2020

Eastern Arc researchers at the University of East Anglia based in the Quadram Institute and the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent are working to help generate a vaccine against coronavirus and providing support to a key company developing urgently required antigen and antibody tests.

The project is using new approaches for vaccine delivery developed by Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) based on engineering the natural ability of resident gut bacteria to generate nanoparticle sized Outer Membrane Vesicles (OMVs).

In combination with the latest developments in recombinant protein production established at Kent, synthetic biology and bioinformatics, researchers have identified key antigen targets within the virus, developed and assembled constructs and will employ plug and play technology to help generate immune-responsive particles.

The team at QIB is led by Professors Simon Carding and Martin Warren who are working closely with the team in Kent led by Professor Mark Smales. The project reflects the remarkable versatility of groups that have previously collaborated to tackle global research challenges through the provision of vaccines, biotherapeutics and nutrients in developing countries.

The teams are working closely with renowned virologist Professor James Stewart from the University of Liverpool so that the project can move forward a quickly as possible. They are also collaborating with Mologic, where Prof Warren holds a Royal Society Industry Fellowship, working on diagnostics and antibody development as several of the targets being expressed are essential in developing new coronavirus tests.

The project will continue to involve the pervasive expertise across the Eastern Arc as it develops.

“It is heartening that so much has been achieved already in such a short space of time, reflecting not only the skills of the various researchers involved but also the willingness of academic and industry to work together to tackle this major global pandemic” said Phil Ward, Director of Eastern Arc. ‘At a time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to act collectively and collaboratively, and Eastern Arc is intended to enable this to happen.’

It is important to emphasise that all members of the Eastern Arc have contributed to the project either by providing direct support or by staying at home and doing their bit to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Remember – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives – and the research teams within QIB and Kent have been deliberately kept small because of this.

 The trimeric Covid-19 Spike protein (image courtesy of Martin Warren)

Image in article heading by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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