Rapid Research Response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak: Development of Targeted Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Comparative Pathogenicity Assessment
In 2019, the world has seen the emergence of a virus that causes pneumonia in humans, which has a high probability of resulting in complications that include acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in an estimated 0.2% to 5% of cases. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a virus endemic in wild animals that has adapted itself to infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019 outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which is now officially named SARS-CoV-2, a global health emergency. Currently, there is no effective antivirals against this virus. The virus is genetically similar to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS) and shares many disease features with influenza virus infections. Our team will combine its multidisciplinary expertise to develop genetically engineered antibodies that can be used as therapeutics to limit the spread of the virus, as well as help identify the virus in patient samples. We will also develop a rapid genetic test for SARS-CoV-2 and measure the speed of genetic evolution of this virus compared to other coronaviruses that cause disease in humans such as SARS that caused the 2003 outbreak and the middle east respiratory syndrome virus (MERS). Finally, we will mass-produce the surface viral protein to enable the development of a prototype nasal-spray vaccine.