Our Scientific Program
Despite of the successful advances achieved to date in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide propagation of SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in the rapid evolution of this virus and in the emergence of variants of concern (VOC) that may dampen the efficacy of the first generation vaccines.
CoVICIS builds on existing population studies and cohorts which diversity provide a unique opportunity to study virus evolution in different settings, where SARS-CoV-2-specific humoral and cellular immune responses are predicted to vary significantly. In addition, the ground-breaking innovation of the program is the characterization of virologic and immunologic properties of VOC and the identification of immune correlates of protection after disease or vaccination.
The achievability of CoVICIS’ objectives is built on 4 scientific pillars. The ultimate goal is to generate scientific data that will contribute to the control of the pandemic through the surveillance of the appearance VOC and their spread in the general population (both adult and paediatric) and in targeted populations of interest (vaccinated, post-Covid-19, immunocompromised including those who are infected with HIV), to advance the understanding of the virus biology and evolution, as well as the identification of immune correlates of protection of disease and/or vaccination.
the four scientific pillars
Building on the national and international programs, CoVICIS has at its disposal large popluation studies and diverse cohorts of different geographic area, risks, gender and age. The diversity of the cohorts provides a unique opportunity to study virus evolution in these different settings, where SARS-CoV-2-specific humoral and cellular immune responses are predicted to vary very significantly.
These studies are structured in three work packages (WPs) to address the following key scientific questions:
i) Surveillance of appearance of new VOCs
ii) Susceptibility to infection with VOC after a prior infection, in the setting of a long-COVID or after vaccination with different vaccines,
iii) Risk posed by VOC in immunocompromised patients,
iv) Modalities of infection and immune responses in children.
CoVICIS builds on extensive network of existing population studies and cohorts co-funded by national and international program.
Genomic Virological Surveillance
Close surveillance of the genetic profile of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is of paramount importance to identify variants with increased virulence, altered pathogenicity or the ability to escape infection- or vaccine-induced immunity as well as antibody-based therapies or antiviral drugs.
CoVICIS is in a unique position to undertake this endeavour with the partners already leading such multipronged effort at the national level. CoVICIS’s genomic and virological surveillance program includes:
- Close monitoring of the genetic profile of emerging variants through robust sequencing platform and rapid data sharing
- Full length sequencing (NGS)
- Targeted Sanger sequencing
- Variant-specific PCR
- Virological characterization to examine the functional consequences of the mutations harbored by the variants
- Variant Spike protein characterization
- Full variant virus characterization
- Anticipate the impact on vaccines, mAbs and antivirals
The powerful immunological platforms of CoVICIS will utilize highly validated, high throughput and high content assays, in particular of novel quantitative diagnostic tests for the measurement of neutralizing antibodies against wild type virus and VOC.
Specifically, CoVICIS immune surveillance program will focus on:
- Quantitative anti-SARS-CoV-2 Spike antibody profiling to monitor for potential correlations between antibody concentrations and neutralizing potential
- Assess the potency and breadth of serum neutralizing against the original SARS-CoV-2 and Spike mutations identified in variants of concern
- Integrate neutralizing activity analysis of serum samples with antibody Fc effector functional activity
- Characterization of primary cellular immune responses and determine correlation with the SARS-CoV-2 Spike antigen specific response in T cells and B cells
- Define Spike-specific IgG responses against linear peptides to define recognition patterns in sera from subjects previously infected with WT virus, with different variants of concern and vaccinated subject
New technologies for measuring immunologic, virologic, and genomic data have significantly increased the depth by which viral- and vaccine-induced immune responses can be measured, leading to more comprehensive assessment of immunogenicity and immune correlates of protection.
CoVICIS utilizes cutting-edge computational and statistical analysis method to perform statistical and exploratroy analyses with the goal to identify immune corrlates of protection after disease or vaccination. The core activities include:
- Perform quality control, standardization, and annotation of clinical and assay data to facilitate data analysis
- Characterize effect of VOCs on clinical response
- Characterize the impact of VOC on immune responses
- Identify immune correlates of protection
CoVICIS is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under grant nr 101046041