The COVID-19 Fund finances new projects in virus detection, diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance

Added to the 85 studies already financed by the COVID-19 Fund previously, the figure of 117 approved projects is reached, which has already used around 90% of the 24 million euros it has in its budget. The last projects of the Fund will be financed in the coming days.

The 37 new projects affect the investigation of the immune response, the biology and behavior of the virus, the search for possible drugs, the stratification of patients according to the prognosis of the disease and the search for new public health solutions to improve the control of the pandemic, among other issues.

Studies on the biology and behavior of the virus

  • The University of Oviedo coordinates research on the biochemical and genomic mechanisms around resistance and pathogenicity in SARS-CoV-2 infection. The objective is to deepen the biological knowledge of the virus and its interaction with the organism in order to have more data to find the best targets against which to direct possible new treatments.
  • The Illes Baleares Health Research Institute coordinates a study on the ACE2 receptor, key in the entry of the coronavirus into the body, to identify how and where the infection begins. The genetic variants of the aforementioned receptor in the Spanish population will also be studied to know how this process of virus entry and its consequences may differ, something that may have implications for the development of new therapies. In addition, CRISPR / Cas9 will be used to study how infection affects epithelial organization.
  • The IRB Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute is leading a project based on bioinformatics and computing to improve understanding of how the virus uses the ACE2 cell receptor to enter cells, with the aim of facilitating knowledge of how infection occurs and estimate how it can evolve in coronavirus families. This information will serve to start new studies to search for drugs that inhibit the interaction between the virus and its host.
  • The Networked Biomedical Research Consortium (CIBER) is the coordinator of an investigation based on protein engineering and structural biology, whose objective is to inhibit the entry of the coronavirus into cells by administering large amounts of soluble viral receptor (ACE2). This approach may be the basis for the development of new drugs.
  • The Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) leads a project around the dependence of SARS-CoV-2 on microtubules for the development of infection; thus, microtubules can be an effective target to stop their replication. By visualizing the movement of microtubule transporters, their response to minuscule concentrations of drugs can be assessed, and the research will therefore analyze the world's largest library of drugs directed against tubulin. For this, the project will carry out a screening looking for drugs that inhibit this transport and studying viral replication at tolerable doses.

Immunity studies

  • The Fundación Instituto Mar de Investigaciones Biomédicas (FIMIB) is the center leading a new project that will influence the evaluation of the specific immune response to SARS-CoV-2. The study will analyze the characteristics of the immune response, regardless of the clinical manifestations, and the evolution of the infection in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. Another objective is to assess whether immunosuppressive treatments can have any incidence, positive or negative, in the course of infection and in the development of immune memory.
  • The HM Hospitals Research Foundation coordinates a study to identify cytokine profiles capable of predicting the development of respiratory distress associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The analysis will focus on proteins that companies that develop diagnostic kits are already working with, to ensure that the markers found on the immune response can be readily available in healthcare centers. A second phase of the project will focus on the development of more accurate and patentable diagnostic technologies.
  • The Canary Islands Health Research Institute is leading an investigation to study alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonists and prevent the accumulation of neutrophils in an inflammatory focus. The objective of this approach is to achieve an anti-inflammatory effect that can help combat the cytokine storm that is generated in severe phases of COVID-19, controlling this exaggerated and uncontrolled reaction of the immune system.
  • The Vall 'd Hebrón Hospital Health Research Institute is the coordinating center for a study on the various immunological risk profiles in COVID-19. The main objective is to generate algorithms and indexes to stratify patients according to their immunological and virological risk profile, information that can facilitate the analysis of clinical trials with immunomodulators.
  • The Ramón y Cajal Hospital Biomedical Research Foundation coordinates the Protective study, which seeks to investigate the most beneficial immune reactions against SARS-CoV-2 to unravel biological mechanisms associated with a better prognosis in the development of COVID-19. Patients of all ages, including children, will be studied to better understand the variability and severity of COVID-19 based on different risk factors.
  • The Foundation for Biosanitary Research and Innovation of Asturias (FINBA) is leading an investigation to study the levels of T naïve lymphocytes as a predictive factor of the effectiveness of the immune response against SARS-CoV-2 and its potential vaccines. The objective is to define the lymphocyte profile that characterizes patients with different profiles of development and severity of COVID-19, to predict the greater or lesser risk of complications, analyzing the profiles that could best benefit from a possible vaccine.
  • The Foundation for Biomedical Research at Hospital La Paz coordinates a project focused on congenital immunity errors and predisposition to SARS-CoV-2 infection and the severity of COVID-19. Thanks to complete exomic sequencing work in patients under 50 years of age from all over Spain without comorbidities or known risk factors, the researchers hope to improve genetic knowledge about the development of the disease. The Canary Islands Health Research Institute has received funding for this same project, which it will coordinate with researchers from the La Paz Hospital to advance genomic research on the predisposition to SARS-CoV-2 infection and the development of COVID- 19.
  • The IrisCaixa Foundation is leading a study to identify and characterize in a more concrete and precise way the protective immune response against SARS-CoV-2, knowledge that can guide the design of possible vaccines; the ultimate goal is to achieve immunity and prolonged population protection against SARS-CoV-2 through vaccination.
  • The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute Foundation coordinates a project to improve knowledge of the immunological risk profile in COVID19. The study is based on the generation of algorithms to stratify patients according to their immunological risk profile, analyze clinical trials with immunomodular drugs and support the best therapeutic strategies.

Studies on therapies and drug development

  • The CSIC is the coordinating body for a project to determine the clinical utility of the analysis of interleukin 6 (IL-6) signaling as an indicator of the activity, development and progress of COVID-19. The therapeutic opportunity with IL-6 trans-signaling blockers will be analyzed and a genetic and bioinformatic analysis of the genes involved in the signaling of this interleukin will be carried out to select and stratify patients and find out who can benefit the most from the therapy with blockers of IL-6.
  • The Andalusian Public Progress and Health Foundation will develop a mechanistic model based on artificial intelligence, which has already been used successfully in rare diseases, for the reuse of drugs against SARS-CoV-2 infection that are already being used to treat other diseases .
  • The CSIC will also investigate as coordinator a project around the use of senolytics for the management of COVID-19. The main objective of this project is the specific elimination of 'aged' cells through the use of senolytics, a type of drug aimed at eliminating these cells, in order to improve the clinical picture of those affected. The fact that some senolytic drugs are already in the clinical phase could accelerate their use in patients with COVID-19. The research also considers the development of vaccines based on different cellular responses.
  • The Polytechnic University of Catalonia coordinates a study that seeks to discover inhibitors of the Mpro protease of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as new antiviral treatments. Through bioinformatic analyzes, different drug design methods will be analyzed to obtain a list of molecules that show affinity and that can be tested in 'in vitro' models.
  • The Foundation for Biomedical Research at Hospital La Paz seeks to understand the inflammatory state of patients in a project that will provide new information on the evolution of COVID-19. The effect of various drugs on the activation of the inflammasome and its relationship with inflammation and the immune response will be studied. The data associated with the evolution of the patient are decisive for classifying patients who respond better or worse to therapies, and to determine mechanisms of viral evasion.
  • The Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC coordinates an investigation that is based on the generation of organoids (cellular models that simulate the work of human organs) to study possible therapies and carry out drug screening. The objective is to identify cellular responses in these 'mini-organs' exposed to various clinical manifestations that worsen the prognosis of COVID19, such as diabetes, in order to specify new therapeutic approaches.

Epidemiological studies

  • The Mathematical Research Center Consortium will develop mathematical models to quantify in real time the new unreported cases of COVID-19 in Spain. The estimations will be used to study the dynamics of the disease applying epidemiological models that allow us to better specify morbidity and mortality.
  • The University of Valencia is the coordinating center of a project that seeks to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in environmental samples and its potential indirect transmission. This is a study of epidemiological surveillance and molecular epidemiology that will analyze environmental and social factors of the spread. The potential for environmental transmission of the virus in the specific conditions of Spain will be investigated, studying the release of the virus by the intestinal route and wastewater treatment plants, in addition to its presence and behavior on common surfaces such as plastics, stainless steel and glass.
  • The Foundation for Biomedical Research of the Ramón y Cajal Hospital will evaluate epidemiological scenarios of the COVID-19 disease using an original model of the so-called 'membrane computation'. The objective is to predict the effect of different interventions in the epidemic, managing various scenarios and taking into account factors such as ages, contact and transmission rates, contact times, protective measures, effects of possible therapeutic and vaccine agents, etc. The researchers will observe how the modification of each factor influences the epidemiological trend of the disease.
  • The University of Santiago coordinates the 'Predico' study on dynamic prediction models on COVID-19 involvement scenarios in the short and medium term. The objective is to predict the evolution of the expansion and incidence of the pandemic and to solve one of the main problems that the known models are facing: the reliability of the available data, both due to difficulties in the detection mechanisms and a probable abundance of asymptomatic cases.
  • The University of Murcia will analyze the dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic with physical-mathematical epidemiological models. Control strategies, simulations and prospecting will be used to study the official figures associated with the pandemic and propose a scientific basis to design future strategies for containment that are more suitable beyond confinement. Simulations on different scenarios of incidence and affected curves will help anticipate control measures and understand the risk of importation of cases and regrowths.
  • Carlos III University seeks to improve the preparation of public health responses to the pandemic with short, medium and long-term simulations in different propagation scenarios. The project studies issues such as possible selective vaccination campaigns, the influence of the environment on the spread of the virus and the development of strategies for social confinement according to the extent and extent of different periods of infection.
  • The University of the Basque Country coordinates a research based on mathematical modeling to predict the incidence of possible new COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe; The objective is to help predict more accurately the short and long-term impact that the various control strategies have had and will have on the health of its inhabitants.

Studies on the management of the disease and its manifestations

  • The CSIC coordinates a project based on radiographic screening of chest inspection in patients with COVID-19. Using machine learning technologies, the research will help develop an AI-based radiological screening system to help identify the most severe cases of the disease.
  • The Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Gregorio Marañón leads a multicenter observational registry of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection in Spanish pediatric ICUs. The objectives are to know the clinical situation of pediatric patients in ICUs, to analyze the therapeutic and support measures used, to characterize the clinical course of cases, to improve care for severely pediatric patients and to evaluate the measures established to avoid nosocomial transmission. of the illness.
  • The Andalusian Public Foundation for the Management of Health Research in Seville will work to determine phenotypes that predict complications in COVID-19 and to evaluate the efficacy of immunosuppressive treatments. The objective of the project is to identify phenotypes predictive of the need for mechanical ventilation in the initial evaluation of patients and their evolution in the first days of admission, and to evaluate the efficacy and safety of immunosuppressive treatments used in patients without mechanical ventilation with elevated markers. macrophage activation syndrome.
  • The Clinical Hospital of Valladolid coordinates a project that studies the evolution of the inflammatory profile in COVID-19 patients, with the aim of locating possible therapeutic targets. The objectives are to improve the clinical, biological and molecular characterization of the disease, facilitate the prognostic stratification of severity and mortality, determine the main associated complications and describe a source of possible new innovative treatments.
  • The Clinical University Hospital of Valencia coordinates an investigation that will study the changes in the pulmonary function tests in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia according to the level of severity at 4 and 26 weeks after hospital discharge. The study includes tests such as forced spirometry, measurement of static lung volumes using plethysmography, and carbon monoxide lung diffusion tests.
  • The Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Ramón y Cajal is leading an investigation designed to respond to the clinical need to predict early enough which patients at admission will have a higher risk of developing a serious pulmonary complication. Since the immune response is crucial in patients from the 5-7 day of symptom evolution, the objective is to know why certain patients trigger an exaggerated immune response that aggravates their clinical situation (cytoquna storm). To do this, the immune response of Th1 / Th2 / Th17 / Treg and TLRs / KIR receptors will be analyzed in relation to the clinical course of the disease.
  • The Fundación Instituto del Mar de Investigaciones Biomédicas (FIMIM) is leading the MIND-COVID19 study, which will analyze the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the population by monitoring cases in primary care and hospital. Among the possible consequences of the pandemic to be studied are post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol consumption and various possible dysfunctions in the pediatric population.
  • The Foundation for Biomedical Research at Hospital La Paz coordinates the project 'The COVID-19 heroes study' on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of workers in health devices. Given the magnitude of the psychosocial impact of the pandemic and the public health problem that exposure to the pandemic and its derivatives suffered by healthcare workers may represent, this prospective, multi-center, 12-month follow-up cohort study will identify stressors and possible protective measures.
  • The Foundation for Biomedical Research at Hospital La Paz is also leading a study on breastfeeding in the transfer of possible protective factors against SARS-CoV-2. The researchers will analyze its possible benefits and safety, understood as exclusion as a possible source of transmission and cause of disease, and will analyze the transfer of immunological / inflammatory factors and microbiological markers potentially associated with the severity of COVID-19.

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