Testing Covid-19 drug candidates more efficiently
"The purpose of our study is to investigate the suitability of human airway epithelia-models for antiviral drug testing and establish how they compare to animal testing," says Caroline Tapparel Vu from the University of Geneva.
Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out, the treatment situation for Covid-19 patients is still unsatisfactory and challenging, despite the major progress made over the past two years.
One of the reasons for this is that the animal models currently available to test SARS-CoV-2 drug candidates do not adequately reproduce the situation in humans, and the data from animal models often does not transfer to humans. The same issue arises in animal models of other viral respiratory diseases, such as influenza.
One promising approach is to use human airway tissues cultivated in vitro (human airway epithelia (HAE)), since these replicate the human host respiratory tract environment more accurately. The great advantage of this is that drug candidates are tested using tissues derived from cells isolated directly from patients. "The purpose of our study is to investigate the suitability of HAE models for antiviral drug testing and establish how they compare to animal testing," says Caroline Tapparel Vu, a professor at the University of Geneva.
As antiviral drugs are often used in combination therapy to increase treatment efficacy and help contain viral resistance, the project also aims to determine which combination of drugs is most efficient in treating COVID-19.
As part of the practical implementation of the project, the research group plans to set up an HAE-based screening platform for large-scale testing of antiviral drugs. This platform will be set up in collaboration with specialist company Epithelix and other partners from academia.
Reduction and Replacement of animal models for antiviral testing using 3D human respiratory epithelia