SciLifeLab coordinates major efforts in diagnostics and research on the Coronavirus

Press release
2020-04-08

Press release from SciLifeLab

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 organized 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 endeavors.

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. 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.

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 corona pandemic affects Sweden and the world extremely hard in many aspects. It is important that anyone who can help decrease the virus's effects does so. It's all about staying home if you feel ill to actively work to improve the situation through various initiatives a lot of coordination and increased resources. 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 in place, as it is now a hub for this entire effort”, says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair of Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

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. All data is shared in real time and conclusions are published in just a few days, in comparison to the months or years it usually takes. The research community has shown real strength in this situation”, says Olli Kallioniemi, Director at SciLifeLab.

Approved projects for Phase I

Alternative methods for virus testing
•    Extraction-free high-sensitivity RT assay for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection (Björn Reinius, Karolinska Institutet)
•    iLACO-Sweden (Vicent Pelechano, Karolinska Institutet)
•    PLA-based large-scale analysis of Corona virus immunity (Ulf Landegren, Uppsala University)
•    RCA COVID-DIA (Mats Nilsson, Stockholm University)

Serological examinations
•    Characterization of the B cell response during SARS-CoV-2 infection (Karin Loré, Karolinska Institute)
•    Human antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (Mats Ohlin, Lund University)
•    Multiplex analysis of immune response against Covid-19 (Sophia Hober, KTH)
•    Neutralizing human B-cell derived monoclonal antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (Pontus Nordenfelt, Lund University)
•    Rapid development of novel antibody assays diagnosing Covid-19 (Jan-Åke Liljeqvist, University of Gothenburg)
•    SICoV – Serological Investigations on SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses – improved diagnostics and knowledge (Åke Lundkvist, Uppsala University)
•    Translational serology for a population-wide assessment of Covid19 immunity (Jochen Schwenk, KTH)

Collaboration between the following initiatives for sample collection and biobanks for COVID-19

•    Clas Ahlm, Umeå University
•    Magnus Gisslen, University of Gothenburg
•    Michael Hultström, Uppsala University
•    Patrik Medstrand, Lund University
•    Charlotte Thålin, Danderyds Hospital and Karolinska Institutet
•    Åsa Torinsson Naluai, University of Gothenburg

SciLifeLab has been created by the coordinated effort of four universities in Stockholm and Uppsala: Stockholm University, Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University.