COVID-19: What We’re Doing

We’re developing and producing SARS-CoV-2 reagents to help in the research of therapeutic treatments, vaccines and diagnostics for COVID-19. With virus mutations occurring within COVID-19, it is crucial to act quickly in order to develop a pool of resources so that research into treatments and vaccines can be broadened.

For more information on our COVID-19 products and for custom project enquiries contact us here.

What are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a group of enveloped viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds and were first reported in chickens in the 1930s and subsequently in mammals in the 1940s. They get their name from their appearance in electron micrographs, in which the spikes on their surface resemble a crown with the term “coronavirus” first being used in 1968. For most of the time since their characterisation, coronaviruses have been considered significant pathogens of livestock, particularly pigs, and associated with only mild diseases, such as colds, in humans. They infect via mucosal surfaces in susceptible hosts, causing either enteric or respiratory infections. Because of their large genome size and unusual modes of gene expression, they have also been much studied by molecular virologists.

The situation regarding coronaviruses changed drastically in 2002 with the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Asia which caused almost 800 deaths with a fatality rate of over 9%; the causative agent was subsequently named SARS-COV. This was followed by outbreaks in 2012, 2015 and 2018 of another coronavirus that caused Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome virus (MERS-CoV). In this case, over 800 deaths resulted, with a fatality rate of 37%. Which brings us to the present: Covid-19. This is  caused by a virus related to the original SARS virus and which is therefore called SARS-CoV-2. This has, to date, caused over 700,000 deaths worldwide with a fatality rate of close to 4% and is seen our world change dramatically in every aspect.

Our COVID-19 Reagents

Virus particles contain three principle proteins, Spike (S), Membrane (M) and Envelope (E). These are synthesised from subgenomic RNAs produced during infection. Within an infected cell these associate with host-derived membranes to form the envelope around the outer surface of the particles. Newly synthesised genomic RNA associates with the Nucleocapsid (N) protein which then interacts with membrane-bound vesicles containing the three structural proteins. This results in the formation of enveloped virus particles which then bud through the surface membrane of the cell.

We have successfully developed and produced a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 N-protein (antigen) and a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 S-protein using our plant-based Hypertrans technology.

Advantages of Using Our Plant-Based Hypertrans® System

Our Hypertrans® system allows for the rapid simultaneous production of multiple gene products in a controlled and coordinated manner within the tissues of plants. Using gene synthesis and modular vectors, new products such as vaccines, antibodies or enzymes can be rapidly produced on a large scale therefore making it well suited to be able to rapidly respond to emergencies like the current COVID-19 pandemic.