Researchers at the University of Zurich have the skills, experience and knowledge to make a vital contribution to tackling the coronavirus crisis. Several research projects have already begun, others are at the starting gates. “Within a very short period of time, we have received numerous applications for research projects on Covid-19 and its consequences,” says Prof. Michael Schaepman, Vice President Research at UZH. “So many, that we are not able to finance them just with our own funds and with the federal funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation. We want to support and accelerate urgent research projects relating to the corona crisis with additional donations.”
Studies that will provide scientific findings to help politicians and businesses develop an optimal exit strategy from the current lockdown are high priority. “Such findings will help people and businesses that are subject to severe limitations in the current situation,” says Schaepman.
To cover the funding gaps for these projects, the UZH has established a new Pandemic Fund and launched a public funding campaign. The initial goal is to raise 500,000 Swiss francs to accelerate the most urgent projects.
One of the projects to be supported by this fund is the Swiss-wide study on antibody tests by the research team around Professor Milo Puhan and Professor Jan Fehr of the UZH Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute. Working with the Swiss School of Public Health, they plan to test people in different age groups for antibodies against the coronavirus in order to get reliable data about the spread of the virus in Switzerland and immunity against it.
In another study that will be supported by the fund, professor of immunology Onur Boyman is researching the immune system and the immune response in people infected with Covid-19. The findings should make it easier to identify those people who are at high risk of serious complications from the disease, and to provide them with more targeted treatment.
Finally, the fund will support a study by Alexandra Trkola, professor of virology, and her interdisciplinary team, who are decoding antibody responses in people infected with Covid-19 as well as those who have recovered. The researchers want to find out whether and to what extent these people are immune to further infection with the virus. The findings will support the development of vaccines, therapeutic antibodies or plasma therapies. Further projects will be added depending on the urgency and course of the current corona crisis.