Record participation in COVID-19 Open Call - five projects selected

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

The interest in the scientific community to fight the pandemic using mouse models is remarkably high.

 

In December 2020, INFRAFONTIER launched an attractive free-of-charge service for the biomedical research community fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 Therapeutics Pipeline Trans-national Access (TA) Call offered academic researchers to test their novel therapeutics and vaccine candidates in a preclinical Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL3) pipeline using COVID-19 optimized mouse models (for details: please click here).

The COVID-19 TA Call surpassed expectations and turned out to be the most successful open call organised by INFRAFRONTIER so far. 21 scientific institutions from eight countries applied to be one of the five research projects that an INFRAFRONTIER expert team will support in the framework of the EC-funded call.

In March and April 2021 the evaluation committee, consisting of INFRAFRONTIER principal investigators (PIs) and external experts, had a hard time selecting the best suited proposals in terms of relevance, quality of preliminary data, and soundness of the proposal and research plan. The five top projects are now selected, and all applicants have been informed about the outcome of their proposals.

The successful projects come from five different countries – France, Germany, Norway, Spain and the USA – and deal with various research areas in the fight against COVID-19. Some of them aim to re-purpose existing drugs to prevent cellular entry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Others target on developing completely new ways to defend the attacks of the virus or to heal and restore organs that are already infected. 

The expert teams of CIPHE, the Marseille-based INFRAFRONTIER partner coordinating the COVID-19 TA Call, and the contributing partner CCP in Prague are happy about the high value of the submitted projects. Ana Zarubica, CIPHE Deputy Director and the PI supervising the COVID-19 Therapeutics Pipeline, says: "The relevance and quality of all proposals was excellent. They are all addressing fundamental clinical issues."

Ana explains why in the end a decisive factor for the selection was the feasibility of the proposals: "Upon infection with SARS-CoV2, the K18-hACE2 mice used in our BSL3 developed a severe disease that results in rapid and high lethality. Therefore they are particularly useful to test vaccines or highly potent treatments blocking virus entry. They are more difficult to use to test anti-inflammatory compounds."

The teams at CIPHE and CCP are eager to cooperate with their new scientific partners: All projects will start in May or June and are scheduled to be completed in autumn 2021.

Another very positive outcome of the Trans-national Access Call was that its promotion across the global scientific community proved the willingness among researchers to use well suited mouse models for their COVID-19 studies. Many applicants whose proposals had not been selected have nevertheless expressed their interest to further cooperate with the INFRAFRONTIER biomedical experts on a regular service basis.

For Ana Zarubica and her colleagues, this is a clear additional advantage of the TA Call: "Each project we carry out allows us to improve our knowledge on the use of transgenic mice in COVID-19 research."