Gates Foundation commissions large coronavirus study from KU Leuven
Share article:
Share article:

Gates Foundation commissions large coronavirus study from KU Leuven

Rge Rega Institute lab where the tests will be carried out © Leuven Mindgate

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to provide samples of 15,000 therapeutic molecules to the Gasthuisberg hospital at the university of Leuven, to aid research into therapies to combat the coronavirus Covid-19, De Standaard reports.

The molecules come from the Scripps research institute in California and its drug development division Calibr, which keeps a portfolio of therapeutic molecules used in the development of drug treatments.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hopes that among these 15,000 substances, there are one or more molecules that can slow down the novel coronavirus,” commented Professor Johan Neyts of the virology lab at the Leuven university Rega Institute, which will carry out the research. “We will be looking on their behalf.”

The ultra-bio-safe Rega laboratory is perhaps the only one in the world, he said, that can test thousands of candidate molecules at high speed, one after the other and safely.

A week or two after the delivery arrives, we’ll have the results,” Prof Neyts said.

The lab was developed within the institute by Pieter Leyssen, now senior industrial research manager at the university. It works fully automatically, and can be left to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The samples will be delivered in pallets of 400 containers, each containing a different molecule. On arrival in Leuven the containers will be fed with cells and a sample of the Covid-19 virus added. Then it is a case of waiting to see if any of the molecules has a retardant effect on the virus’ activity.

The Covid cells used in the testing were provided by Prof Neyts’ colleague at the institute, Professor Marc Van Ranst, who in turn obtained them from the nose of Belgium’s first case of infection.

The entire screening of the 15,000 molecules will cost the Foundation “several tens of thousands of euros,” Prof Neyts said.

That’s a pittance, compared to the cost of developing a medicine from scratch and bringing it to the market.”

The team is careful not to hope for too much – that a substance will be found in the shipment which brings the virus’ growth to a halt.

But a little bit is good enough,” Prof Neyts said. “Or better still, a couple of substances that each slow it down a little, that we can combine to help seriously ill patients to hopefully get better.”

The Gates Foundation was started by the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda “to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” It is based in Seattle, and is funded not only by the Gates fortune, but also a contribution from another billionaire, Warren Buffett, as well as donations from companies, institutions and individuals from around the world.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Non-urgent care once again postponed in some hospitals
As the worsening coronavirus situation in Belgium is starting to take its toll on hospitals, it has been confirmed non-urgent care will once again be ...
Brussels Airport warns autumn holidaymakers to arrive early
Passengers leaving from Brussels Airport this autumn have been advised to factor in extra time to account for longer than normal check-in times and ...
27,000 Belgian taxpayers to pay more after incorrect tax break
About 27,000 taxpayers who wrongly received a tax reduction in the last three years due to an error by the tax administration will have to pay what ...
Wallonia launches first major survey for cyclist satisfaction
Following in the footsteps of France and Flanders, the Wallonia Region of Belgium is launching its first major satisfaction survey on municipal ...
After 5 rescues in 2 days, hundreds of migrants take shelter in Italy
After five rescues in less than two days, almost 400 migrants aboard the Geo Barents search and rescue ship in the Central Mediterranean, operated by ...
Belgian wind farm closed down to save migrants floating in sea
A wind farm near Zeebrugge had to be shut down on Wednesday morning as more than 25 migrants had been adrift in its vicinity off the Belgian coast ...
Cinemas will require Covid Safe Ticket from Friday
The Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will be required to attend cinemas across Belgium from Friday, which marks the start of the autumn holidays, the ...
Strong warnings issued ahead of climate change summit
New and updated climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, leaving the world on track for a ...
Disastrous year for Belgian beekeepers
Belgian beekeepers have experienced a disastrous year, with honey production 50 to 60 percent lower than last year due to heavy rainfall during ...
New measures for schools considered as situation becomes ‘untenable’
Belgium's various education partners met on Wednesday to discuss additional measures to implement in schools as the coronavirus situation worsens in ...
Belgium in Brief: Back To Masks
I really hope you didn't throw out all your masks. You'll be needing them again. Now I do appreciate that this isn't a huge change for ...
Belgium a climate slowcoach as EU reveals emissions progress
The European Union is on track to pass its first big climate test, according to new figures published this week. But Belgium has been singled out for ...