Science: our power to defeat COVID-19

by Asociacion Apadrina la Ciencia (Association Sponsor Science)
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Science: our power to defeat COVID-19
Picture 1
Picture 1

Dear supporters,

First of all, we really hope that after these months you continue to be safe and free of COVID.

In this sixth report, we would like to express our most sincere gratitude for your generous contributions.

We also take this opportunity to give you a brief update of how your donations are contributing to the fight against COVID-19. In particular, we want to inform you of the research performed by the group of Dr. Cristian Smerdou and Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Aseguinolaza at the Center for Applied Medicine (CIMA) of the University of Navarra (Spain) who has benefitted from your help

This group has been actively working to find new antiviral compounds against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. For that purpose, they have tested many different drugs, some of which are currently being used to treat other diseases, such as cancer and autoimmune pathologies. Their approach is straightforward, they infect a special type of monkey cells in the laboratory with an isolate of SARS-CoV-2 in the absence or in the presence of the drug to be tested. Of course, they do not need to use a monkey for these experiments, because the cells that they use where obtained many years ago and can be cultivated for many generations. The result of the experiment is very simple to analyze: if the drug has antiviral potential, SARS-CoV-2 will not propagate, and very little virus will be obtained from the infected cells. However, if the drug does not work, the virus will propagate in the cells and a lot of new viruses will be recovered. The quantification of the virus can be done by PCR, the same technique that is used to detect it when you are infected by SARS-CoV-2. The only difference is that they do not need a nasal swab to get a small sample from the cell culture… They can also analyze the amount of virus by infecting cells and observing if they are killed by the virus as it is shown in a representative picture below.

According to Dr. Smerdou, these experiments were a bit frustrating because most of the tested drugs had absolutely no effect on the propagation of SARS-CoV-2, and some of them were even toxic to the cells. But scientists are used to have negative results, so the group did not get discouraged and continued testing more and more drugs. Until they found a particular compound derived from a plant cultivated in Thailand that showed a clear antiviral effect. Most importantly, this compound was not toxic to the cells, suggesting that it might also be used to treat patients. The compound had been previously used in traditional oriental medicine to treat several diseases and it was known for its anti-inflammatory properties, something that the group has also confirmed in several experiments. Now they are proceeding to test whether this compound is safe in small rodents and if it could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in vivo, two important steps before being tested in patients.

This work has been possible in part thanks to your help. In particular the research group has employed your money to buy several reagents important for these studies. For example, with every 10 € donation, the researchers were able to analyze one laboratory sample to determine whether a certain antiviral compound was able to inhibit viral infection in cells. But each compound had to be tested at many different concentrations in different cell lines, making the number of samples for these studies very high.

As Dr. Smerdou explains “Our group at CIMA Universidad de Navarra has tested many different drugs against SARS-CoV-2, finding some promising candidates”. Now it is important to validate these results in vivo and to perform further analyses that could bring this therapy closer to the clinic, thus hopefully contributing to save lives.

They sent us a photo of the biosafety level 3 laboratory where a volunteer is working with SARS-CoV-2 (Picture1)

Here is another photo of plates with monkey cells that were infected with SARS-CoV-2. The purple color indicates where the cells are. The holes in the plates (pointed by yellow arrows) indicate where the virus has propagated killing the cells (there is less virus in the plate on the right). (Picture2)

We will let you know soon where your generosity is headed next time!

In the meantime, please help us spread the word further, among family, friends, colleagues…

By donating your money to Apadrina la Ciencia, you are contributing to research projects that help handle the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain and to understand the Science behind the SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic.

Thank you all again for your support!

Picture 2
Picture 2
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PepMV particles
PepMV particles

Dear supporters,

First of all, we really hope that you continue to be safe and healthy. Once again, we want to express our gratitude for your generous contributions and share with you how your donations are contributing to ending this terrible pandemic we are all suffering.

We would like to remind you that from time to time Ford Fund is doubling the amount of each of your donations. Thus, if you give e.g. 15€, Ford Fund is adding another 15€. Therefore, we receive 30€ in total! And for that reason, we also double our gratitude both to you and Ford!

Do you think we can face COVID-19 pandemic by doing research in Plant Molecular Biology? The answer is: “Yes, indeed!”

Plant Molecular Pharming is a growing area of research to manufacture drugs or modern medicines at a global scale and most interestingly providing medicines and vaccines to less developed countries where the access is limited. We are all facing a global pandemic and we have to find solutions in every country. The production of biopharmaceutical proteins in plants have many advantages with respect to other approaches: i) they can be produced easily and cheaply; ii) the drug purification processes are simpler; iii) it does not require highly specialized technicians and iv) large amounts of compounds can be produced in a short period of time (weeks or a few months).

One recent successful example is the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp produced in an unusual way: in tobacco plants. ZMapp consists of an antibody that has been used to treat Ebola patients.

You have further information on this initiative here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-05/ebola-drug-made-from-tobacco-plant-saves-u-s-aid-workers

From Apadrina la Ciencia we also want to support this type of research and, thanks to your kind generosity, 5.000 € donation has been sent to a research group working in Molecular Pharming. The laboratory is led by the virologist Dr. Miguel Aranda at the institute CEBAS-CSIC, located in Murcia, Spain. They plan to produce large amounts of two SARS-CoV-2 proteins (N and S proteins) from Pepino Mosaic Virus genome. By means of this plant virus biotechnology technique, SARS-CoV-2 proteins could be used as vaccines or to produce serology tests. Moreover, the production of N protein provides an alternative to the standard tests based on the Spike (S) protein and makes it possible to differentiate between vaccinated and infected persons since most of the vaccines are based on S protein.

By donating your money to Apadrina la Ciencia, you are contributing to projects that help handle the COVID-19 pandemic and to understand the Science behind the SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic.

Please, help us spread the word further, among family, friends, colleagues…

Thank you all again for your support!

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Testing antivirals at the biosafety laboratory
Testing antivirals at the biosafety laboratory

Dear supporters,

First of all, we really hope that you continue to be safe and healthy.

In this fourth report, we wanted to express once more our gratitude for your generous contributions.

We also wanted to share with you how your donations are being spent. We have recently sent a new 5000€ donation to a laboratory working on the development of new antiviral compounds against SARS-CoV-2. As you are probably aware, despite the success of Covid-19 vaccines, we are still lacking efficient antivirals able to eliminate the virus in infected patients. This kind of antivirals are urgently needed because it will still take some time before the majority of the population is vaccinated, especially in less favored areas of the world. Treatment of Covid patients with antivirals could save many lives.

The laboratory that will receive the donation is led by the virologists Dr. Cristian Smerdou and Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Aseguinolaza at the Center for Applied Medicine (CIMA) of the University of Navarra, located in Pamplona, Spain. They were able to isolate the virus from a patient at the beginning of the pandemic and have been testing the antiviral effect of many different drugs against SARS-CoV-2. Many of the drugs that they are testing are used in the clinic for other indications, like cancer, and if they also show antiviral activity, they could be easily tried in Covid-19 patients, since they are already approved for human use. Scientists working in this project have often diverted their time from other projects and have faced difficulties to acquire all the material needed for their research, like reagents used in the infectivity assays or in PCR analysis of samples generated in the lab, as well as safety protection equipment needed to work with the virus in a especial high safety laboratory.

These materials and reagents can be bought thanks to your donations, so your help is been greatly appreciated. With every 10 € donation, the researchers can analyze one laboratory sample to determine whether a certain antiviral compound has been able to inhibit viral infection in cells. But each compound has to be tested at many different concentrations in different cell lines, making the number of samples for these studies very high.

As Dr. Smerdou explains “Our group at Cima Universidad de Navarra has already tested dozens of compounds against SARS-CoV-2, finding some candidates that have shown promising results”. With the donation received we will be able to confirm the results obtained until now with the best candidates and to perform further analysis that could bring this therapy closer to the clinic, thus hopefully contributing to save lives.

You will find further information on this initiative (in Spanish) in the links below as well as some photos of the biosafety level 3 laboratory where they work with SARS-CoV-2.

We will let you know soon where your generosity is headed in June!

In the meantime, please help us spread the word further, among family, friends, colleagues…

By donating your money to Apadrina la Ciencia, you are contributing to projects that help handle the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain and to understand the Science behind the SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic.

Thank you all again for your support!

See you soon!

Fully protected to work with virus and fight Covid
Fully protected to work with virus and fight Covid

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Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"

Dear supporters,

Apadrina La Ciencia (Sponsor Science) Team hopes you and your loved ones are well and managed to start the new year with tons of positive energy and solidarity.

A lot has happened since we last contacted you! And we want to share the scientific advances reached to decrease COVID-19 with those of you who made them possible through your donations. We have not achieved the final defeat yet, but we are on the right track:

Strike 1! Reduce COVID-19 spread through early diagnose and selective confinement. Thanks to your contributions a research team was able to specifically perform hundreds of PCR tests out of the thousands run on residents and workers at nursing homes, and prevent many fatal infections. Their exceptional work has been recognized in many articles and they have even been stars in a comic strip by Peridis, a very famous Spanish cartoonist, to celebrate their prize as best “Network against COVID-19 in 2020” presented on November 19th 2020 by FEI (Foro de Empresa Innovadoras).

https://tribuna.ucm.es/news/reconocimientos-fei-2020-maria-vallet-red-ucm-de-laboratorios-covid-19

https://twitter.com/sebbm_es/status/1329702915188121600?lang=bg

Strike 2! Generate viral-related products for diagnostic kits or vaccines. Some of your donations were assigned to finance new technologies that focus on the use of plants as biofactories to obtain large amounts of viral proteins needed for antibody detection or antibody induction. Their work has been presented to the general public in a webinar about research in covid-19.

https://www.imib.es/ServletDocument?document=67792

Strike 3! More research to identify coronavirus weaknesses and turn them against the pathogen. Your economic support is enough to cover a part time salary to support the advancement of a young researcher career. We aim to complete the amount required to cover the salary for a one-year full time contract for a scientist, a total of 22,000.00 €, dedicated to learn about virology.

As you can see, we are cornering the coronavirus, but we are not done yet! Now we need your help more than ever to eliminate this undesired companion. We invite all of you to continue supporting our initiative by spreading the word all over the planet, the more the better.

We know, it is an ambitious challenge, but joining efforts, we can definitively defeat COVID-19!

Best wishes,

Apadrina la Ciencia Team

Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"
Prize as best "Network against COVID-19 in 2020"

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Prof. Aranda (on the right) with group members
Prof. Aranda (on the right) with group members

Dear supporters,

 

Hope you are all doing well!

 

We come back to you all because there’s another great piece of news we had to share! In June, thanks to your donations, we were able to send 5000€ to another Spanish research group,who approaches Covid-19 research from an interesting way; Professor Aranda , principal investigator (PI) of the laboratory, explains it: “The final aim of our project is to express in biofactory plants, with a high yield and cheaply, SARS-CoV-2 epitopes decorating a plant virus particle; these can be useful for diagnostic purposes and, hopefully, as a vaccine." 

 

Your donations will help the laboratory to approach that research this way: “We will buy molecular biology reagents and kits to prepare DNA constructs to express SARS-CoV-2 epitopes decorating the pepino mosaic virus particle. Also, we will pay Sanger sequencing services to check the integrity and validity of the DNA constructs prepared”, PI Aranda says. 

 

The Aranda’s laboratory is located in Murcia, Spain, and belongs to CEBAS-CSIC (http://www.cebas.csic.es). You can get more information on what his lab normally works on here:
http://www.cebas.csic.es/dep_english/stres/pathology/pathology_lineas_en.html  (in English)

http://www.cebas.csic.es/dep_spain/estres/patologia/patolog%C3%ADa_lineas.html (in Spanish)

 

We have already helped two laboratories, but we would like to go a bit further because there are still many facts related to Covid-19 and the virus SARS-CoV-2 that remain unknown. This time we aim to collect enough money to support a scientist (his/her salary) for a year. So, we would be really thankful, if you could spread the word among your relatives, friends, colleagues… a little bit more. We, Apadrina la Ciencia -with your help-, are eager to support our scientists and their endeavours to deeper understand this Covid-19 pandemic, so that we can surpass it as soon as possible.

 

Thank you for your great support to our cause! We’ll keep you posted! 

 

Have a nice summer/winter, and be healthy! :)

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Project Leader:
Carmen Simon
Madrid, Spain
$19,619 raised of $32,951 goal
 
171 donations
$13,332 to go
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