Cell cultures for COVID-19 high-throughput drug development

We are proud to announce our participation in the new public-private partnership project “CLEAR COVID-19,” funded by Health Holland.

Together with University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), First Health Pharmaceuticals, QVQ Holding B.V., and Vossensteyn Biomedical, we will help develop nasal airway epithelial cell cultures for high-throughput drug development. The focus of the project is to identify antiviral compounds in the respiratory tract that can mitigate severe symptoms caused by COVID-19.

The UMCU will develop a unique COVID-19 biobank, which includes viral isolates and nasal airway epithelial cells, to characterize virus-epithelium interactions. Furthermore, correlations with mild or severe COVID-19 in patients will be studied.

Our in-kind contribution to the project is to assess viral replication and epithelial gene expression by single-cell RNA sequencing using the 10x Genomics platform.

Furthermore, cell cultures will be used for SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drug screening. Included in the screen are ~1400 FDA approved drugs, antimicrobial peptides with observed efficacy to SARS-CoV-2 from Utrecht University, and various products from the three other private parties.

Promising drugs will be selected from this screen to perform additional studies. These additional studies will determine how these drugs impact SARS-CoV-2 infection, the influence of combinatory treatment, and the impact on viral-induced RNA expression in nasal airway epithelial cell cultures. In this phase of the project, we will again contribute with our single-cell RNA sequencing expertise.

With these efforts, we hope to select candidate antiviral drugs for further drug development and clinical testing. Furthermore, by using single-cell RNA sequencing, we hope to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms that associate with clinical disease. These can be explored for diagnostic product development.

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