< No: 35

The fight against the novel coronavirus

The HPA consortium has been engaged in various ways to aid in the fight against the health consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The program involves efforts to increase the knowledge base on the disease and to develop diagnostic tools and therapeutic drugs to combat the pandemic. A new platform for serological assays to screen for specific antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 was developed using several of the HPA platforms, and this test has now been used to screen different cohorts in Sweden to determine the prevalence of antibodies, indicating past infection with the virus. In addition, a diagnostic laboratory has been set up by HPA researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm) in collaboration with the Science for Life Laboratory, to expand the capabilities of viral analysis of swab tests. The lab has conducted a large portion of all tests for acute infection performed in Sweden. Furthermore, AbClon, a company founded by South Korean scientists and HPA researchers, has developed antibodies that recognize SARS-CoV-2. The aim is to generate a therapeutic antibody to combat the disease in the clinic. Finally, the HPA has provided a list of proteins implicated in the disease. The presence in the human body of the enzyme angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), previously proposed to be the main target for coronavirus attachment to the surface of human cells, was analyzed in more depth. The results raise questions regarding the role of ACE2 for infection of human lungs and highlight the need to further explore the route of transmission during SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Key publications

Figure legend: Cell-type specific localization of ACE2 in human tissues using validated HPA antibodies.

Key facts

  • A new concept was developed to screen for antibodies to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, based on suspension bead arrays
  • A laboratory for viral detection was set up and used to screen for virus infection across different cohorts
  • Several potential antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein were developed with neutralizing activity
  • Expression analysis based on the HPA reveals that the protein ACE2 has limited expression in human lung tissue