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Mayor's Fund sponsors Covid-19 research projects

MedUni Vienna researchers participating in fourteen projects in second tranche
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(Vienna, 15 June 2020) The "Medical-scientific fund of the Mayor of the federal capital Vienna" is financing a number of MedUni Vienna projects relating to coronavirus. Fourteen research projects dedicated to the study of tuberculosis and other lung diseases were selected in the second tranche.

The Board of Trustees of the "Medical-scientific fund of the Mayor of the federal capital Vienna" has approved a second tranche of funding for a number of scientific research projects relating to coronavirus.

Circulating microvesicle profiles in COVID-19 patients - the role of pre-existing conditions and gender aspects
Project leader Christa Firbas (University Clinic for Clinical Pharmacology)

COVID-19 is currently holding the entire world in suspense. In this project, inflammation markers in the blood of COVID-19 patients are sought that allow the course of the disease to be assessed in order to identify risk patients at an early stage.

Covid-19 infectivity (PCR) and immunity (antibodies) in Viennese schoolchildren – a cross-sectional study during the pandemic.
Project leader Thomas Frischer (Klinik Ottakring, Gesundheitsverbund) and Zsolt Szepfalusi (Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, MedUni Vienna)

In order to ascertain the prevalence of infection (both current and historical) with the novel coronavirus in schoolchildren in Vienna, a random sample of 1,800 children from school years 1 – 12 will be studied using blood samples (antibody tests) and throat swabs (current infection).

Investigations into the deactivation of the SARS-CoV-2 activating protease TMPRSS2 by SERPINA5 (protein C inhibitor) and other endogenous serpins.
Project Leader: Margarethe Geiger, Center for Physiology and Pharmacology, Institute of Vascular Biology and Thrombosis Research

In order for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be able to penetrate human cells, a protein molecule on the surface of the virus has to be split by a human enzyme. The researchers want to investigate the extent to which this enzyme can be inhibited by human inhibitors, as this could subsequently be a starting point for the development of an antiviral therapy.

Pharmacological renin-angiotensin system (RAS) blockade and the RAS "fingerprint" in COVID-19
Project Leader: Manfred Hecking, Department of Medicine III, Division of Nephrology and Dialysis

Covid-positive patients on RAS inhibitors (antihypertensive drugs that act on the renin-angiotensin system) could benefit from discontinuing them or (if they do not yet take RAS inhibitors) from the targeted administration of these drugs. These strategies will undergo controlled comparative testing and the molecular RAS "fingerprint" in the blood will be studied as a potential biomarker for the disease.

ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for 2019 novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (ECMOCARD)
Project Leader: Harald Herkner, Department of Emergency Medicine

This international observational study on intensive-care patients with COVID-19 infection should provide new information about mechanical ventilation and extracorporeal circulatory support.

Para-and postinfectious neurologic complications of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Project Leader: Romana Höftberger, Department of Neurology, Division of Neuropathology and Neurochemistry

Neurological complications in COVID-19 patients.

SARS-CoV-2-related ocular involvement in COVID-19 patients – prevalence and risk assessment
Project Leader: Jan Lammer, Department of Ophthalmology and Optometrics

COVID-19 is primarily thought to be spread through droplet infection via the respiratory tract. However, there are initial indications that the virus can also be incorporated and transferred through other mucous membranes, for example the conjunctiva of the eye. The aim of the study is to determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2-positive eye involvement in the sense of a viral conjunctivitis in COVID-19 patients, as well as correlations with serological factors and immunological markers.

Prevalence and course of olfactory dysfunction in people with SARS-CoV-2 infection and patients with acute unclear olfactory dysfunction since March 2020
Project Leader: Christian Albert Müller, Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases, Division of General Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases

This project will study patients with acute, unclear smell and taste disorders since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, using validated test methods (smelling/tasting) both by home testing and also over the course of several months in hospital. The researchers hope that this will provide information about the prevalence, severity, duration and course of these symptoms that greatly impair quality-of-life, thereby making a substantial contribution to the care of the affected patient group.

Phenotypic and functional characterization of lymphocyte subpopulations in Covid-19 convalescent patients with different clinical disease course.
Project Leader: Winfried Franz Pickl, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Institute of Immunology

This project aims at elucidating causes and consequences of lymphopenia, which represents one of the major risk-factors in Covid-19 disease.

Tracing antiviral AID/APOBEC family in coronavirus-targeted tissues and cells: a systems biology-based study
Project Leaders: Anastasia Meshcheryakova, Diana Mechtcheriakova and Peter Pietschmann, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research

AID/APOBECs are a family of factors that play a major role in the response to a large number of viruses. Using a multi-modal integrative approach, the study will investigate the expression behaviour of members of the AID/APOBEC gene family in various tissues and cell types of Covid-19 patients or corresponding in vitro models. The relationship between the expression patterns and clinical parameters is of particular interest. The study is based on the evaluation of publicly available transcriptomics data using the GENEVESTIGATOR platform. This systems biology-based study should provide crucial insights into the role of AID/APOBECs in the context of combating COVID-19.

Cross-Talk of SARS-CoV-2 and Immune System during the COVID-19 pandemic
Project Leader: Oliver Robak, Department of Medicine I, ICU -13i2

SARS-CoV-2 is highly infectious and is behind the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers want to investigate whether the immune system (in particular IgA and vitamin D signalling pathways) is weakened during the infection and what factors influence severity and course.

Empirical design of a molecular Covid-19 vaccine based on the analysis of natural antibody responses
Project Leader: Rudolf Valenta, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Institute of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research

Based on the analysis of the natural Covid-19 immune response in patients, this project heads towards the empirical design of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Rapid identification of B cell epitopes (mimotopes) derived from the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2: Towards the development of a mimotope-based prophylactic vaccine
Project Leader: Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine

Based on an internally developed vaccination platform for identifying B-cell peptides (mimotopes), the project is concerned with the development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate containing the epitopes/docking sites of neutralising anti-CoV-2 antibodies. By inducing highly-specific neutralising antibodies, this vaccine candidate should generate effective and reliable immunity, particularly in high-risk individuals.

Investigating the prognostic impact of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system activity in patients hospitalized for COVID-19 infection
Project Leader: Peter Wolf, Department of Medicine III, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism

This study will investigate the prognostic impact of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system activity in Covid-19 patients. This will help to better characterise specific risk populations in future, so that optimised, individualised treatment can be provided at an early stage.

Link: Mayor's Fund backs Covid-19 research projects - first tranche