IOCB Tech donates 7 million CZK to fight coronavirus
IOCB Tech, a technology transfer subsidiary of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB Prague), has donated 7 million Czech crowns (250 thousand euros) for research and development of new diagnostic tests for the infectious disease COVID-19. Five million crowns is going to the teams of Dr. Ruth Tachezy and Prof. Ivan Hirsch of the Faculty of Science, Charles University (FOS), while two million crowns is being provided to the team of Dr. Petr Bartůněk at the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IMG).
In the current crisis resulting from the spread of the new coronavirus, institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences have joined forces with universities to initiate a number of projects designed to substantially increase the testing capacity of the healthcare system, which will be very much needed in the coming weeks and months. In addition to greater testing capacity, efforts will focus on research and development of simpler and faster methods to bring about a dramatic acceleration in testing.
One of the most problematic phases of testing, which is also the focus of the IOCB research, is the isolation of viral RNA from collected samples. The motivation behind the financial support from IOCB Tech is to allow research teams from other institutions, who are focusing on this critical bottleneck and awaiting necessary funding from the state and its agencies, to immediately expand their projects without having to wait for additional resources.
“Based on what experts have said, one of the key factors is the broadest and fastest possible testing of patients with suspected infection. That’s why it’s necessary to vastly increase current capacities,” says Prof. Martin Fusek, CEO of IOCB Tech and vice-director of IOCB Prague. “Researchers at IOCB, FOS, and IMG are now working on a new method and its introduction, but they need money for the purchase of chemicals and necessary equipment, and that’s precisely where our donation is headed. As the saying goes, ‘He who gives promptly gives twice’.”
“Dr. Ruth Tachezy of the Faculty of Science, Charles University, is our leading virologist, and in recent weeks she’s worked selflessly and without financial support on the development of new methods for testing SARS-CoV-2. Together with Prof. Ivan Hirsch and colleagues from the First Faculty of Medicine, she’ll be responsible for introducing these methods at BIOCEV in a joint laboratory of Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences. The research team of Dr. Petr Bartůněk is currently finishing work on the creation of a large-scale automated testing line using advanced robotic technology,” says Dr. Jan Konvalinka, Charles University vice-rector for research and coordinator of academic laboratories for coronavirus testing. “The resources have come at the right time, and they’re in the best of hands,” he adds.
The need for bridge funding for research teams working on critical projects to cope with the coronavirus epidemic in the coming months became apparent at the beginning of the week. The formalities were resolved in a few days, and the money has been sent and is expected to arrive in the accounts of Charles University and the Institute of Molecular Genetics on Friday.
“IOCB Tech is an academic company specializing in the transfer of technology, and it generates revenue by mediating and negotiating licensing agreements between our institute and commercial partners, including licensing agreements for antivirals arising from basic research,” explains IOCB Prague director Dr. Zdeněk Hostomský. “These troubled times affirm the wisdom and practicality of creating a company like this, which can very flexibly respond to the specific needs of a given situation. It’s one of the ways the money that’s earned is put back into science to fight the viral disease and the circle is closed,” says Dr. Hostomský.