New assay concept for vaccine development

The Covid19 pandemic demonstrates how easily the development of new vaccines can become a race against time. Before a new vaccine is ready for approval, it must first be tested for effectiveness and absence of side effects. This involves complex and often time-consuming processes. Researchers at the Fraunhofer EMFT and the University of Regensburg are working on an assay concept that could make the efficacy testing of vaccine candidates faster and at the same time more informative. 

New Assay Concept for Vaccine Development
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New Assay Concept for Vaccine Development

A central aspect is the testing of vaccine candidates with regard to their ability to trigger an immune response and initiate antibody production in the human body. For this purpose, the so-called neutralization test is used: The virus is brought into contact with its host cells in the laboratory under controlled conditions and the resulting infection of the host cells is measured. If this experiment is carried out in the presence or absence of a blood sample from previously vaccinated people, the presence and quantity of antibodies can be evaluated on basis of the infection of the host cells and conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

The aim of the Fraunhofer-funded cooperation project "Covirep" between the Fraunhofer EMFT group "Cell-based sensor technology" around Prof. Dr. Joachim Wegener and the team of Prof. Dr. Ralf Wagner at the Institute of Microbiology and Hygiene of the University of Regensburg is the development of a conceptually new assay for the detection of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV2. The concept uses intrinsic biological amplification mechanisms to detect a very low-treshold viral influence on cell physiology and is scalable to high throughput rates by an automated, electrical readout. In contrast to the methods used so far, the response of host cells to the viral infection is continuously monitored in real time and not only at a single point in time.  


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