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New collaborative coronavirus research

May 01, 2020

The Berlin University Alliance has allocated approximately €1.8 million in funding for research into the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

A new Berlin-based collaborative research project is laying the foundations for comprehensive research into the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Funded by the Berlin University Alliance, the project entitled ‘Coronavirus Pre-Exploration Project’ will receive €1.8 million over one year. The project will see researchers from Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin work together to test drugs, develop potential vaccines and explore health economics consequences which might arise from the current crisis. The ‘pre-exploration project’ will serve as a pilot project for the Berlin University Alliance competition this summer, which will invite proposals pertaining to the area of ‘global health’.

The Berlin University Alliance is committed to addressing some of the big challenges of our globalized world. The current crisis represents a clear mandate for action from the outstanding research alliance which comprises Berlin's three big universities and Charité. Country-specific responses aimed at containing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 have resulted in major restrictions on public life and have created significant challenges for the affected countries’ economies and health care systems. Researchers from the Berlin University Alliance's member institutions will be working with colleagues from the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMP) and the Robert Koch Institute to develop tools for the long-term control and prevention of the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2.

The project is divided into six subject areas, which will be addressed separately by small teams of researchers. The teams will focus on the synthesis and testing of antiviral therapy options for the treatment and prevention of the infection, the use of two- and three-dimensional human tissue models, and the use of animal and surrogate models of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Research will also focus on: the development of long-lasting vaccines; the study of disease course, disease stages and ‘predictive markers’; and the modeling of the spread and consequences of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

“The aim is to use this preliminary collaborative work to submit another joint project proposal after one year, and to secure public and private funding for the implementation of the most promising options. This approach will provide ongoing support for research into what is a health topic of global significance,” says Prof. Dr. Rainer Haag, Project Lead at Freie Universität Berlin.

The pilot phase of the research – the ‘Coronavirus Pre-Exploration Project’ – will be funded as part of the Berlin University Alliance’s Grand Challenge Initiative. One of the overarching aims of the Alliance’s member institutions is to tackle the big global challenges (Grand Challenges) through a collaborative approach. The Berlin Alliance has dedicated the initial stage of this initiative to the issue of ‘Social Cohesion’. The current project forms part of the second Grand Challenge – ‘Global Health’ – which will be launched in the summer.

The project is led by Prof. Dr. Rainer Haag (Freie Universität Berlin), Prof. Dr. Christian Hackenberger (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology), Prof. Dr. Jens Kurreck (Technische Universität Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin).


Prof. Dr. Rainer Haag, Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin
Tel: +49 30 838-52633, Email: haag@chemie.fu-berlin.de 

Additional information:

Successful efforts by Berlin-based researchers to develop treatment options against seasonal influenza and bird flu have been published in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnologywww.berlin-university-alliance.de/news/items/2020/20200330-nature-paper.html