FDA awards contract to analyze coronavirus samples

Sept. 16, 2020

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded a $5.4-million research contract to the University of Liverpool and global partners to sequence and analyze samples from humans and animals to create profiles of various coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. The study will also examine in vitro coronavirus models, such as organs-on-chips, according to an agency press release.

The regulatory science project was awarded in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

In this Medical Countermeasures Initiative (MCMi) regulatory science project, the University of Liverpool (ULIV) and international partners will analyze SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV clinical samples, collected through global partnerships, to better understand coronavirus evolution and virulence, characterize host-pathogen interactions and immunity, and identify biomarkers of disease progression and severity.

During this project, the University of Liverpool and international partners, will perform RNA sequencing and immunological analysis of samples from patients who were infected with SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV during the 2019-20 pandemic and outbreaks in 2003-2004 (SARS-CoV) and MERS-CoV (since 2012). The project will use a biobank of diverse samples from humans with these infections and compare their response to relevant animal models and in vitro systems being used to develop medical countermeasures.

The FDA said the project also has the potential to provide a better understanding of vaccine and therapeutic targets, including biomarkers of protection; potential development of antiviral resistance, and host-directed therapeutics for a broad range of coronaviruses. The pattern of severe disease in COVID-19 is similar to both MERS and SARS, particularly with regard to an enhanced and overt host inflammatory response, and this will be investigated and compared in human and animal models, the FDA said.

The project will also examine in vitro models of coronavirus infection, including human organs-on-chips, to elucidate how these models compare to in vivo responses in animal models and humans.

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