Preclinical Studies

Establishment of a preclinical animal model for COVID-19 (DZIF)

In this project, we will establish a humanized mice model for SARS-CoV-2 infection. By transplanting immune-suppressed mice with human hematopoietic stem cells isolated from cord blood, we will generate mice with a full human immune system. Infection of these animals with SARS-CoV-2 and its different variants of concern (VOCs) will serve to understand the contribution of the human immune system to the pathogenesis that SARS-CoV-2 causes in humans. This model will serve as a preclinical model to test the efficacy of different anti-viral drugs and anti-bodies against SARS-CoV-2 and its VOCs.

Project coordinator: Estefania Rodríguez-Burgos 


Equine Polyclonal Antibodies Immunotherapy Against COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2–VOC (EU HORIZON 2021-EPIC-CROWN-2)

The main objective of EPIC-CROWN-2 is to rapidly clinically assess an EMA (European Medicines Agency)-authorized safe antiviral therapeutic approach based upon the use of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) clinical batches of potent and broad neutralizing horse anti-SARS-CoV-2 polyclonal F(ab’)2 antibodies in COVID-19 patients infected with either VOC or the historical pandemic coronavirus.

Project coordinator: Estefania Rodríguez-Burgos


Modelling of viral respiratory co-infection dynamics in human epithelium (DFG/ANR-MORIARTY)

The project aims at combining mathematical models with experimental data to determine how respiratory viral co-infections within bronchial epithelium impact disease progression and treatment efficacy. These studies include co-infections between SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) and HRV (Human Rhinovirus). Within the proposed research framework, the project focuses on:

1. Characterizing the spatio-temporal dynamics of respiratory viruses within tissues.

2. Assessing the dynamics of respiratory viruses in presence of co-infection.

3. Measuring the impact of co-infections on antiviral strategies against IAV (Influenza A virus) and SARSCoV-2.

4. Assessing the impact of co-infections and interactions on the ecology of viruses and their transmissibility.

Project coordinator: Estefania Rodríguez-Burgos 


Integrated testing approaches and intensive laboratory training as strategy against SARS-COV-2 spread in Brazzaville (EDCTP-ITAIL-COVID-19)

The main objective ITAIL-COVID-19 is to better understand COVID-19 epidemiology in Congo-Brazzaville and to strengthen the country's national surveillance system. This surveillance system will be carried out by assessing the circulation of the virus in the community, in various ways (patients with flu-like symptoms and a symptom-free control group).

Specific objectives are:

1. To determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection and viral loads in the nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) samples from flu-like symptomatic patients of any age admitted at the selected health care centers.

2. To determine the prevalence and viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in the NPS samples from the patients' symptom-free first-degree relatives/housemates (control group).

3. To evaluate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in patients and the control group.

4. To screen Congolese health workers at front line of patients treatment using a novel ultrasensitive tool (ApoH sample pretreatment) in order to detect early infection.

During the ITAIL-COVID-19 project, intensive training will be provided to lab technicians working at the two main diagnostic centers for COVID-19 in Africa.

Project coordinator: Estefania Rodríguez-Burgos/Francine Ntoumi


Improved Vaccination Strategies for Older Adults (EU HORIZON 2020-ISOLDA)

ISOLDA aims at the development of improved vaccines against viral infections for older adults by promoting virus-specific T cell responses in vaccinees above the age of 65 using modulators of T cell immunosenescence and inflammageing. This includes vaccines against Influenza virus, YFV (Yellow fever virus), TBEV (Tick-borne encephalitis virus) and Coronaviruses like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS and SARS-2.

Project coordinator: César Muñoz-Fontela/Estefania Rodríguez-Burgos