In addition to diagnostics and treatment, researchers at the University of Helsinki are working to develop coronavirus vaccines. However, as the virus continues to mutate in different parts of the world, vaccines alone may not be enough.
The University of Helsinki is researching the treatment of COVID-19 with existing drugs and we are also developing new drug therapies. In a project led by the Academy of Finland researcher Giuseppe Balisteri and Professor of Zoonotic Virology Olli Vapalahti, we have developed a promising antiviral drug candidate that can potentially also act as an inhibitor for SARS-CoV-2, as well as other human pathogenic viruses. If we are able to succeed in the initial research of the new antiviral molecule, we can progress it to the next stage through cooperation with pharmaceutical companies to ensure it is a core part of the global solution in the fight against coronavirus and other human viruses.
You can donate to support this pioneering new antiviral drug initiative by choosing the target corona research on our online donation form and adding your wish to the text field.
You can also make a donation by bank transfer to: IBAN = FI15 1660 3001 0767 70, BIC = NDEAFIHH, recipient: University of Helsinki Funds. In the message field, you can add “neuropilin-1 study”, and your contact information.
You may also support the general coronavirus research at the University of Helsinki by choosing "koronavirustutkimus" as a target for your donation on the online donation form or by writing the text on the message field of the account transfer. We direct the donations to the research groups according to the wishes of the donors and with the decision of the University of Helsinki
The new drug therapy is based on the research of Balisteri and Vapalahti that discovered the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to human cells by using another receptor called neuropilin-1, in addition to the already well-known ACE2 receptor. There are many of these neuropilin-1 receptors in our cells, especially in the respiratory tract and other tissues, from blood vessels to immune defense cells. Our goal is to prevent the virus from binding to the neuropolin-1 receptors by affecting the “hooks" in the spike protein of the virus.
The discovery is important because as the virus transforms, this part of the structure that affects the infection of the virus does not change. The structure is the same for other human viruses, such as those causing Ebola, haemorrhagic diseases, and avian influenza - thus blocking the function of the corresponding “hook” could potentially affect many viruses other than SARS-COV-2 and its variants, which cause COVID-19.
The drug candidate has been shown to be effective in animal testing. The drug, given as a nasal spray, has alleviated the symptoms of infection in animals and has even completely prevented infections entirely. Together with other pandemic control measures such as diagnostics, quarantines, masks, social distancing, and medication, an antiviral drug could reduce viral infections significantly in just a few weeks. The fact that the virus circulates less in the population helps to curb the emergence of new virus variants.
Applying for research funding is demanding and the decision-making processes are long. Flexible funding - donations - can play a major role in saving lives and economies. Our goal is to raise € 100,000 to support the work of our researchers studying the role of the neuropilin-1 receptor and drugs that inhibit the activity of the viral spike protein “hook” in spring 2021. Donations to the Balistreri and Vapalahti Group will be used to employ more researchers, to use the tools necessary for the analyses, and to finish the animal testing phase: the final goal is a safe and efficient antiviral to be taken to the next research phase in summer 2021.
Only with research data can we solve the current pandemic situation and prepare for future-threatening infectious diseases. The University of Helsinki conducts multidisciplinary and coronavirus research in several faculties. Our medical research is based on our expertise in virology as well as zoonosis and infection research.
The investments we make now help us to strengthen virology research and to be able to react to future pandemics. Already, thanks to pre-existing knowledge from the SARS and MERS epidemics in the 2000s, we were able to react quickly to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in terms of vital research to help combat the virus. We want to secure the continuation of Finnish, world-class virological expertise and to better prepare for the next pandemic - for that we need a research center for threatening infectious diseases, which will support both researchers and the Finnish authorities.
All donations have a significant impact in supporting our researchers' work. We have already been able to direct key support to several research groups in summer 2020 from donations that were made during spring 2020. In 2021, the donation from the Sakari Alhopuro Foundation supported the work of the research group of Professor Kalle Saksela. The aim of the group is to conduct virological basic research related to a new and unique the corona vaccine.
Thank you to the donors and partners who work with us!