Garvan's coronavirus research

Our expertise in antibody research, immunology, and genomics is being applied to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic initiated an unprecedented global research effort. At Garvan, we responded immediately: by driving or collaborating on projects locally and globally to develop new ways to treat and prevent infection. And to learn more about virus strains, and inform global treatment strategies.

As there are no guarantees on which treatment or vaccine will prove most effective, researchers must take as many approaches as possible.

Garvan’s excellence in antibody research, immunology, cellular genomics and whole genome sequencing is well positioned to contribute valuably to the global research effort. We use cutting-edge technology and genomics research to drive innovative projects, with a focus on improving outcomes for patients.

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Key areas of investigation

Dr Ira Deveson
Dr Ira Deveson

Tracing coronavirus evolution

Thanks to cutting-edge ‘Nanopore’ genome sequencing technology, researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney have developed the most rapid coronavirus genome sequencing strategy in Australia to date. The technological advance has the potential to provide critical, timely clues on how cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection are linked.

“When a new ‘mystery’ coronavirus case is identified, every minute counts. At Garvan, we have repurposed our genomic sequencing capabilities to enable a rapid analysis of a coronavirus genome in just a few hours,” says senior author Dr Ira Deveson, Head of the Genomic Technologies Group at Garvan’s Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics.

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Professor Daniel Christ
Professor Daniel Christ

Engineering antibodies for COVID-19 protection and therapy

A research team led by Professor Daniel Christ is developing antibodies designed to target surface proteins of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which the virus needs to infect human cells. The potential antiviral therapy could be particularly suited to at-risk individuals, including the elderly and chronically ill patients, and could be administered as a preventative therapy to health workers on the frontline.

“Our expertise and track record in antibody therapeutics position us perfectly to develop therapeutic antibodies for COVID-19. Through Garvan’s Centre for Targeted Therapy, we are mobilising the institute’s capability to move on an urgent therapy for at-risk individuals,” says Professor Christ, who heads the Centre for Targeted Therapy at the Garvan Institute.

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Prof Stuart Tangye
Prof Stuart Tangye

Searching for genes key to COVID-19 protection

Researchers led by Professor Stuart Tangye are undertaking crucial research to determine the genetic basis of severe COVID-19.

Professor Tangye and his colleagues are using whole genome sequencing to identify variants that could predispose healthy individuals to severe COVID-19.

The team is also assessing the immune responses of individuals with inborn immune conditions who were infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will test how well they respond to the different coronavirus vaccines, to determine whether they may be at risk of future infection.

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Prof Sean O’Donoghue
Prof Sean O’Donoghue

Visualising the 3D shape of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins

Developing new precision treatments for COVID-19 requires a detailed understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

An international team led by Professor Sean O’Donoghue from the Garvan Institute and CSIRO’s Data61 has developed a computational resource that allows scientists to visualise the 3D shape of the viral proteins of SARS-CoV-2 and could help identify how the virus might best be targeted.

By systematically comparing the SARS-CoV-2 viral genome with existing databases, the team constructed an online COVID-19 resource that consists of almost one thousand detailed, 3D models, and which captures many different states of the proteins that make up the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The researchers added the protein models to their online platform Aquaria, where they can be visualised with tens of thousands of different protein features. Integrating SARS-CoV-2 protein models through this method can help scientists rapidly gain insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying COVID-19 infection.

 

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A/Prof Joseph Powell
A/Prof Joseph Powell

Investigating genes linked to severe COVID-19 in immune cells

A team led by Associate Professor Joseph Powell is leading a global effort to uncover how the genetics of different immune cells determines susceptibility, severity and outcomes of COVID-19.

The researchers are analysing the data generated by the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative – a worldwide collaboration aimed at identifying the genetic basis for the immune system’s response to COVID-19. With worldwide cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the number of patient samples is growing daily.

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A/Prof Sarah Kummerfeld
A/Prof Sarah Kummerfeld

COVID-19 symptoms and links with genetics and chronic disease

A team led by Associate Professor Sarah Kummerfeld are developing a method for investigating COVID-19 in Australians currently enrolled in genomic studies.

The research aims to identify groups of people with mild COVID-19 symptoms, and genetic variation linked to COVID-19 severity, which may provide crucial insights into the underlying causes behind severe symptoms. A further goal of the research is to determine impacts of chronic disease co-morbidities on COVID-19 patients.

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