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Free Covid-19 toolkit to aid researchers worldwide

Image: Griffith University

Resources partly developed in Australia enable researchers to ‘determine how drug candidates affect virus replication’

A Covid-19 toolkit developed partly at Griffith University is to be released for use by researchers worldwide.

Griffith University’s Menzies health institute collaborated on the free kit with the University of Tartu in Estonia and the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee in the UK.

Using a clone based on the original Covid-19 virus that was isolated in Wuhan, China, it allows researchers to make synthetic coronavirus particles, manipulate the genome of the virus and study emerging mutations.

Lead researcher Suresh Mahalingam (pictured), from Griffith University, said the system “has several genetic modifications that enable far more effective and productive research investigations than using the natural virus itself”.

The toolkit also includes a “near-comprehensive” set of antibodies that work against Covid-19, which were produced using sheep. It also has a collection of materials drawn from Covid-19 patients and a set of modified cell lines.

Mahalingam said the toolkit “enables researchers to rapidly test hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds for their ability to interfere with Sars-Cov-2 replication in human cells. The tools will also enable researchers to precisely determine how drug candidates affect virus replication.”

In a paper published on 25 February in the journal PLOS Biology, Mahalingam and fellow authors describe the kit as aiming to help labs “pivot” to Covid-19 research and to help accelerate their work.

More than 200 of the kits have already been dispatched to research labs, and the kit is supported by a detailed website.

The work was funded by Indian Immunologicals, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust in the UK, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.