"Task Force": researchers from the Institut Pasteur de Lille are working harder than ever

« We are in a position to be able to test molecules on the virus thanks to robots in a P3 containment laboratory, which is a unique facility and allows us to very quickly test the effects of molecules on these cells and on the virus. », explains Benoit Déprez, scientific director of the Institut Pasteur de Lille.

A dedicated « Task Force » research team is bringing together researchers from several laboratories at the Institut Pasteur de Lille and is working hard in the search for a treatment against COVID-19 with 3 strategic objectives:

1. Identify drugs as quickly as possible out of those that are already available, which are capable of inhibiting the virus, and start a clinical trial in collaboration with medical doctors;

2. Discover vaccine targets to protect the population;

3. Find the therapeutic solutions necessary to prevent potential future epidemics.

Currently, researchers are experimenting with the repurposing of molecules by testing active ingredients already used for other diseases that may respond effectively to COVID-19.

Dr Jean Dubuisson, the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity de Lille, and his team, who are specialists in the field of molecular and cellular virology, have been working for several years on coronaviruses, such as MERS. The research project of the Institut Pasteur de Lille aims to characterize the cellular interactions of coronaviruses with cells in order to better understand the viral life cycle and to be able to identify antiviral targets in order to then develop therapeutic approaches against emerging coronaviruses.

Within the Drug Discovery Center of the Institut Pasteur de Lille, researchers are working on the repurposing of molecules already used for other diseases and which could be used as a therapeutic treatment to this new coronavirus.

Their work, together with scientists around the world, has the potential to accelerate the development of treatments and stop the epidemic.

Dr. Sandrine Belouzard explains « I have been working at the Institut Pasteur in Lille since 2009 and our studies on MERS started in 2012. We selected antiviral molecules and tested them on the MERS virus, which is from the same family as SARS-Cov2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19 disease). It is also important to develop antiviral drugs while a vaccine is being readied. We are studying how this pathogen – which appeared in the Middle East – enters and leaves the cell. The understanding of this mechanism is very useful for getting a precise idea of the life cycle/methods of transmission of SARS-Cov2. The virus is formidable because it has a greater capacity to be transmitted than MERS, for example. »

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