More than 30 research health and life science related projects have been initiated at the SZTE during the past two months to combat coronavirus. The University of Szeged participates a promising research to prepare the clinical testing of an antiviral treatment, furthermore the institution has launched a genetics research and is contributing to the development of mass testing methods for the novel coronavirus.
Substantive university research projects have been launched jointly with the Szeged Biological Research Centre, industrial partners and other higher education institutions of Hungary to combat COVID-19 in the country.
‘The University of Szeged, being in the forefront in medical and life science research, has dedicated its potential to prevent, test, diagnose and heal coronavirus since its first identification, therefore we have a medical development for all elements of the health value chain’ said Prof. Dr. László Rovó, Rector of the University of Szeged. He highlighted that the SZTE is a stronghold of interdisciplinary research and, due to its research university feature, scientific analysis of medical, biological, methodological and material science are continuously being conducted. Dr. Judit Fendler, Chancellor of the University of Szeged laid an emphasis on necessary background, infrastructure and tools that are provided for conducting such research activities. The large number of research demonstrates the fact that the University of Szeged does not only achieve outstanding results on domestic and international rankings, but is also far ahead when it comes to international research, the Chancellor added.
Significant Tasks at HECRIN Consortium
Clinical examination scheme of the University of Szeged has particularly been successful and significant tasks have been delegated to our university within the HECRIN (Hungarian European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network) consortium, which is a national research network. A HECRIN-COVID Committee was established back in March and its work, in addition to recognized university researchers, is jointly supported by acknowledged pharmaceutical experts and the Ministry for Innovation and Technology of Hungary. Proposals are repeatedly monitored and assessed by the Committee and are forwarded for discussion to the Ministry. Owing to our genetics research project we have been delegated with the task to make preparations to the conducting of a national clinical testing, and our university working groups play a particularly important role in this project. We are closely cooperating with authorities as well, highlighted Dr. Ildikó Csóka, Director-General for Strategy. She added that the translational medical approach of the institution is also remarkable and top-level. University researchers and corporate units are cooperating in order to implement and make good use of research results in patient-care.
Preparation of Clinical Testing of an Antiviral Treatment & Genetics Research
More than 30 research health and life science related projects have been initiated at the SZTE during the past two months. One of the most promising of these is an antiviral treatment called Favipiravir aiming to prevent severe or critical condition. Its clinical examination and testing and related coordinating tasks have been delegated to experts of the SZTE as well, said Dr. Balázs Bende, professional leader of Clinical Research Coordination Office of the University of Szeged. He added that with the support of HECRIN project, 1,000 infected patients have been tested and their samples have been examined based on genetic features by researchers of the University of Szeged and Pécs. Based on the results of these examinations, we can possible understand the differences that are individual or that are related to other diseases, thus helping us to detect groups particularly vulnerable. He also emphasized that the University of Szeged, uniquely from Europe, joined an American clinical research aiming genetic examination of blood markers to predict critical condition.
‘Developments in a translational model makes it possible, for example, to link the natural sciences to the clinical practice.’ - This also assists the implementation of basic research to clinical application during which a special cell surface structure has been identified. This may play a role in the entry of the virus into the cell, moreover, this protein could even be used as a circulating “magnet” to collect viruses. Based on the results, we plan to acquire clinical validation in the short term’ said Dr. Balázs Bende. Basic research is also being carried out at the University of Szeged, in order to develop a special, fast and active substance identification method which can make the examination of the already known active substances become up to a hundred times faster.
Treatment of Severe Cases
When it comes to research regarding the treatment of severe cases, the examinations launched at the SZTE Albert Szent-Györgyi Health Center Intensive Care Unit are unique in Hungary. The drug treatment examinations aim to help the recovery of patients in the most critical condition. These preparations are already in circulation which are intended to be used in the treatment of critically ill patients. In addition, printing of 3D faces shields and developments concerning ventilators are also taking place at the University.
Joint Research with the Biological Research Centre (BRC)
‘Despite the epidemic situation, scientific work at the SZTE has not been paused, university research is still being carried out at full capacity’ said Prof. Dr. Zoltán Kónya, Vice-Rector for Scientific Affairs & Innovation. He highlighted that the most significant developments in translational research are being implemented in a joint research between the University of Szeged and the Biological Research Centre of Szeged. Thanks to the joint diagnostic developments, up to fifty times more samples can be tested in the same time and at the same cost. In addition, researchers from the two institutions are working on the development and introduction of a mass screening method to identify those undetectable individuals who have already got recovered from the disease without having shown any symptoms.
Mild Cases and Prevention
In favour of a sufficient prevention, the University of Szeged participates a project to develop a special equipment to clean and sanitize surfaces and indoor objects efficiently, quickly and safely. The research was initiated by industrial partners of the SZTE and involves research groups of internationally recognized material scientists of the University. Besides, there are research initiatives to protect dentists in order to discover the efficient protection during the so called ‘turbine-driven’ interventions.
There are preparations of developments at the University of Szeged aiming to treat mild cases, such as telemedicine solutions to the follow-up of infected patients recovering from coronavirus at home, or the identification of novel pharmaceutic prevention methods to avoid the aggravation of the infection. As a result of the high-pitched industrial cooperations, the University of Szeged is approached by the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies in order to maintain clinical tests of COVID therapy treatments. Therefore the University of Szeged can be among the first European institutions where such pharmaceutical research can be launched.