Coronavirus
© CDC

The DZIF focuses on SARS-CoV-2 research

Up-to-date information

Last update: 20.10.2020 - Direct link to the latest news

Scientists and doctors at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) are working at full speed to put together a research package that pursues ambitious goals. New diagnostic testing methods, antiviral drugs and a vaccine against the new SARS coronavirus are on the agenda. Additional funding has been made available through fast track procedures. The DZIF is initiating research projects and coordinating clinical trials together with the other German Centers for Health Research.

„We are optimistic that our research work at the DZIF can make substantial contributions in the fight against the virus.“
Stephan Becker
Prof. Stephan Becker
DZIF-Coordinator "Emerging Infections"

Prevention: Vaccine development

DZIF scientists in München, Marburg and Hamburg are developing a vector vaccine based on genetic information of a SARS-CoV-2 surface protein which is inserted into a vector. Two vectors are being developed in parallel: A modified smallpox virus which has been rendered harmless (MVA) and the measles virus.

Prof. Gerd Sutter
Gerd Sutter, LMU München, reports on vaccine development

Research status: 1,000 single doses of the MVA vector vaccine were produced by IDT Biologika for the clinical trial phase. Clinical trials in humans started at the beginning of October. Phase I clinical trials involve tolerability tests and testing of immune response stimulation. For further development, the scientists are cooperating with the companies IDT Biologika (Dessau) and CanVirex (Basel) for the measle vaccine.

Latest press release

Further information and FAQs

Treatment: Emergency drugs

The development of antiviral drugs could be faster than the development of a new vaccine. In vitro assays and animal models created in the process of vaccine development now also serve as a basis for testing antiviral substances. Especially agents which have already been approved for other indications hold promise as drugs which could be used in the short term. The DZIF is involved in developing different agents:

Developing specific inhibitors of the main protease in Sars-CoV-2

Prof. Rolf Hilgenfeld and his team at the University of Lübeck succeeded in elucidating the main protease’s precise structure, and consequently develops a first inhibitor termed RHCDS-13b into a drug.

Further information

Inhibitor of the cellular enzyme TMPRSS2

Infection biologists from the German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, together with DZIF colleagues at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, have investigated how the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 penetrates cells. They have identified a cellular enzyme that is essential for viral entry into lung cells: the protease TMPRSS2. A clinically proven drug known to be active against TMPRSS2, Camostat Mesilate, was found to block SARS-CoV-2 infection and might constitute a novel treatment option.

Further information

Neutralising antibodies for prevention and treatment of COVID-19

A team of researchers led by Prof. Florian Klein (Cologne University Hospital) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) has isolated potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies. They have great potential to be used for prevention and treatment of the infection. Together with Boehringer Ingelheim, these antibodies are currently being further characterized and developed. It is expected that they will enter the stage of clinical development later this year.

Further information

Researchers rely on known substances

MHH professor and DZIF scientist Thomas Pietschmann leads the German part of an international consortium of scientists. This research network is searching for substances that act against SARS-CoV-2 in the world's largest substance repurposing bank "ReFrame".

Further information

Clinical trials

Study register for SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

In order to attain an overview of all clinical trials taking place in Germany and to provide an effective network for the researchers, the Clinical Trial Unit of the DZIF at Cologne University has, for the first time, created a registry for all clinical trial activities taking place in Germany - involving now SARS-CoV-2/COVID 19. For the first time, not only DZIF study activities are presented here: In order to provide a comprehensive overview in the current pandemic situation of planned and already active COVID-19 studies in Germany, the Clinical Trial Unit is cooperating with researchers from various German Centers for Health Research and other networks.

To the overview of ongoing clinical studies

LöwenKIDS in a COVID-19 study

Currently, little ist known about children and their susceptibility to the new coronavirus. How many children have already contracted the virus and overcome the infection without any remarkable symptoms? In a DZIF project, scientists now intend to investigate this with the help of 500 "LöwenKIDS".

Further information

LEOSS – a European registry

© LEOSS

The DZIF and the German Society of Infectious Diseases (DGI) have set up a European case registry which is to collect clinical data of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. A special feature of this new registry is that all the data collected will be made available to the scientific community for use in joint analyses. LEOSS is multilingual and is to be implemented across the entire EU. By mid-May, 2000 patient data had already been recorded.

Further information

 

 

The "LEOSS.sero-suvey" platform - gaining insight into immunity in the population

© HZI

Following the example of the LEOSS case registry, which has been collecting and evaluating clinical data of COVID-19 patients throughout Europe since March 2020, the German Center for Infection Research is now establishing the "LEOSS.sero-survey" platform. This platform allows for the timely comparison and cross-analysis of different antibody studies on immunity or seroprevalence in the population. The project is led by scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and is implemented in cooperation with the Helmholtz Federated IT Services (HIFIS).

Further information

WHO Solidarity Trial

The DZIF and DZL have assumed the role of coordinating the WHO Solidarity Trial in Germany. The World Health Organisation has selected four particularly promising agents or agent combos for testing in a clinical trial programme that is being conducted on thousands of patients in many countries. Specific tests have shown that these agents have efficacy against the new coronavirus and these drugs have already been approved for the treatment of other diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Further information

Diagnosis: Rapid and safe tests

Shortly after the outbreak in China in January 2020, DZIF scientists at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin developed the first test for SARS-CoV-2. Using the virus’s genetic information, Prof. Christian Drosten and his team succeeded in developing a test based on the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technique. The test is currently being used worldwide. Now the aim is to refine the test methods as well as to develop and validate new tests which can be used to determine immune responses in the human body. “We will only be able to develop a vaccine once we know what happens inside the patient’s body,” Drosten explains.

Further information

International cooperation

New coalition for resource-pour countries

© COVIDcrc

A group of scientists, physicians, funders, and policy makers from over 70 institutions from over 30 countries have launched an international coalition to respond to COVID-19 in resource-poor settings. DZIF was the first organization in Germany to join the coalition.The COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition aims to accelerate desperately needed COVID-19 research in those resource-poor settings.

Further information

Interesting links on the topic

Federal Ministry of Education and Research: information portal on the coronavirus

Word Health Organization (WHO)

European Centre for Desease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

DZIF scientists Christian Drosten and Sandra Ciesek inform regularly in the NDR podcast "Coronavirus-Update" (German only)