PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Funding for research into coronavirus continues to pour in -– and the University of Pittsburgh is receiving a large grant to continue its work.
The Center for Vaccine Research at Pitt is part of an international team receiving nearly $5 million dollars this week. The money will help pay for research being done in the battle against coronavirus.
“It connects us to an international partnership in Paris and Vienna and then of course Pittsburgh,” says Dr. Paul Duprex, Ph.D.
Duprex is the director of the Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) at the University of Pittsburgh. He stresses this is not work that can be done alone: “I have often described that this is truly a collaborative effort across the world. These are just our collaborators.”
KDKA-TV was first to take you inside the Biocontainment Laboratories at Pitt’s CVR. It is in those highly regulated labs where they grow the coronavirus in large quantities.
Those samples helped clinicians develop tests for coronavirus. Researchers at the CVR also put SARS coronavirus into a genetically modified measles vaccine to see if it can be used to ultimately create protection from COVID-19.
“If you flatten that replication curve of the virus in one person it’s the same idea, the same concept,” says Duprex. “You limit the infection, you maybe reduce the number of cells in the lungs that are infected which might lead to a lesser form of pneumonia which might mean that the person doesn’t end up with a severe infection and doesn’t have to be brought into the hospital.”
Groups from France and Austria are also involved.
Duprex explains the role his team is playing. “We have to develop in Pittsburgh the model of disease. What does model of disease mean? It simply means instead of doing these experiments, because that would be super challenging in people, we develop animal models of disease which copy or recapitulate what happens in people.”
What do they hope to learn from that first round of testing? “The vaccine candidate will be put into the animal models to determine whether or not these animals make antibodies to the measles — which they should — and antibodies against SARS Coronavirus. That is the question.”
Duprex adds the money coming to Pittsburgh will also make it so testing in animals will be able to happen very quickly.