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Spores to Help Combat Coronavirus

The distinctive envelope proteins of the virus are the focus of Cornel Fraefel's vaccine project from the Vetsuisse Faculty. (Bild: istock/narvikk) (Image: istock/narvikk)

Virologist Cornel Fraefel hopes a novel vaccine technique will help control Sars-CoV-2. The Swiss National Science Foundation has awarded him a grant to fund the remarkable project.

What the researchers are aiming for is a vaccine delivered via the spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis – a vaccine that you could just swallow and not have to inject into the blood. The microscopic spores are heat-stable and resistant to environmental conditions and can thus be stored and transported easily. Unlike many other vaccines, they do not require costly refrigeration, which makes them easier to use in rural areas in developing countries, for example. Once swallowed, the spores of B. subtilis pass through the stomach and develop their immunisation protection in the small intestine. In short, spores are the ideal dosage form for a vaccine, if they work.

And Cornel Fraefel is convinced they do. The immunisation protection is based on a genetic modification of the bacterial genome to insert the gene sequences of the Sars-CoV-2 envelope protein. Thanks to the SNSF grant, Fraefel's team are now working flat out to develop the promising vaccine.

Article UZH News

Weiterführende Informationen

UZH Research at the NRP 78 "COVID-19"

Cornel Fraefel's vaccine project is one of seven UZH projects that the Swiss National Science Foundation approved as part of NRP 78 “COVID-19” at the end of July 2020. Another UZH project also involves a vaccine and takes the now well-known naked RNA approach. The other projects in life sciences deal with the biological and medical aspects of the pandemic. One of the seven projects is in social sciences and looks at behavior of the public and prevention.

The SNSF points out that the selection procedure involving an expert panel was "extremely competitive". A total of 188 projects were submitted by all Swiss universities, and the experts selected the best 28. A quarter of the approved projects are being conducted by researchers at UZH. The details of the projects can be found on the SNSF COVID-19 project registry for NRP 78.