Major efforts in research on the coronavirus

9 April 2020

SciLifeLab is now coordinating research efforts across the entire spectra of how viral diseases are tackled.

SciLifeLab now takes a holistic approach to life science efforts in the ongoing corona pandemic. In order to achieve progress rapidly, promising research projects receive expeditious funding from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and traditionally competing research is organised as a team effort.

As a step towards fighting COVID-19, SciLifeLab is now coordinating research efforts across the entire spectra of how viral diseases are tackled; everything from developing alternative diagnostic methods and treatments; to mapping how the genetic material of the virus changes over time, and creating biobanks with patient samples for future research endeavours.

In late March, SciLifeLab launched a national open call for COVID-19 related projects and thanks to a multimillion grant from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, selected projects can receive immediate funding.

“Uppsala University welcomes this swift action by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, which will enable us to contribute knowledge about the coronavirus infection in an effective manner,” says Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson.

11 projects were selected

Nearly 300 proposals were submitted and in this first phase, a total of 11 projects focused on virus- and immunodiagnostics for COVID-19 and six initiatives on sample collection and biobanks, were selected.

“This welcome contribution makes it possible to intensify COVID-19 diagnostic efforts, as well as studies to identify people who have been infected,” says Stellan Sandler, Vice-Rector for Medicine and Pharmacy at Uppsala University.

“Plans are under way at Uppsala to coordinate efforts to develop and evaluate alternative diagnostic and serological methods to detect virus antibodies, led by Professor Ulf Gyllensten, director of the genomics platform at SciLifeLab. Uppsala University’s broad expertise enables us to develop the techniques needed to tackle and limit the COVID-19 pandemic from many different angles, and to increase our understanding of the virus and its effects.”

Contributes with up to SEK 110 million

In the next phase of the project, more proposals will be granted funding, as SciLifeLab creates a thematic division of research areas and grants funding for the best individual projects to work together in battling the virus.

“The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation immediately contributes with up to SEK 110 million for research projects focused on e.g. antibody testing, increasing capacity for COVID-19-testing and creating a biobank. I am glad SciLifeLab was already established since before, as it is now a hub for this entire effort”, says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Researchers share their findings

In order to create synergies, SciLifeLab is now connecting a number of standalone initiatives from all over Sweden. A framework for allowing researchers to share their findings about the virus, nationally and internationally, is also under construction.

“SciLifeLab provides research projects on COVID-19 prioritized access to the technologies and expertise available in our national infrastructure. We hope that other researchers and funders will also prioritize corona research and contribute to collaborative efforts nationally. Over the last months, we have seen an outstanding movement globally where researchers come together and engage in open science and collaborations”, says Olli Kallioniemi, Director at SciLifeLab.

Selected research projects

In the first phase, a total of 11 projects focused on virus- and immunodiagnostics for COVID-19 were selected. Two of them at Uppsala University:

PLA-based large-scale analysis of Corona virus immunity (Ulf Landegren, Professor at Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University)

SICoV – Serological Investigations on SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses – improved diagnostics and knowledge (Åke Lundkvist, Professor at Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University)