Campus Flemingsberg plays key role in fight against Covid-19

Work on a Swedish vaccine for the coronavirus is in full swing at Campus Flemingsberg, although it differs from other vaccines being developed around the world. If successful, the Swedish vaccine could also help combat future pandemics.

Research into Covid-19 is intensifying all over the world. Sweden is also developing its own vaccine for the illness. Development work is being concentrated at Campus Flemingsberg under the leadership of Matti Sällberg, professor of biomedical analysis at Karolinska Institutet.
“Here we have everything we need in one place: extensive competence in vaccine development and immunology, and the necessary infrastructure in the shape of the ANA Futura lab environment with some 300 researchers in 10,000 sqm,” he says.

There is also close co-operation with the infectious disease clinic at Karolinska University Hospital, which will be needed when it is time to conduct clinical trials on a new vaccine. Something that will be relevant next year for the Swedish vaccine. And it won’t be ready for use until 2022 or 2023, explains Sällberg.
“That’s significantly longer than those that are currently being tested in humans. But we’re thinking a little differently and are working on several parts of the virus with our vaccine – we hope our vaccine will also protect people from future coronaviruses.”

The results of long-term investment
Work on the vaccine at Campus Flemingsberg is the result of long-term investment in treatments for infectious diseases and immunology at Karolinska Institutet in Flemingsberg. At Karolinska University Hospital there is also a clinic equipped to receive patients with highly infectious diseases, for example ebola. Even though the current focus is on treatment Covid-19 patients.

Sällberg and his colleagues worked on developing vaccines even before the pandemic. Work is also conducted here into vaccines for a tick-borne hemorrhagic virus and a virus-caused hepatitis, the latter being a global health problem with around 500 million people infected.
“We’re now working on the development of all three vaccines in parallel. None of these projects have been wound down; in fact, we’re recruiting more researchers to these programs,” he says.

A greater openness
The focusing of resources in the wake of the pandemic has resulted in a greater openness in the research world. Large amounts of journals and databases have made all information related to SARS-CoV-2 open and accessible.
“We’re conducting research in real time, and in ways we haven’t been able to in the past. If we’re to achieve results quickly, we can’t keep results secret: it’s important that everyone who has data should also publish them. Researchers are trained to interpret data, even of it’s not reviewed.”

Sällberg hopes that the new-found openness will continue after the pandemic.
“Openness makes everything go a lot faster. I hope that it’ll become increasingly natural to share data in future. But there’s no guarantee of that – there’s a lot we compete over in research. Today, however, we’ve put that to one side for the common goal of our health,” says Sällberg.

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