New Coronavirus Toolkit allows for ‘open access’ of antibodies and genetic tools to further global research into Covid-19 variants
Published on 25 February 2021
An international consortium, led by scientists in Scotland, have devised a Coronavirus Toolkit which gives researchers from across the world open access to a wide range of materials to further Covid-19 research.
The Coronavirus Toolkit, designed and validated by scientists at the University of Dundee’s MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU) in partnership with MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR), allows researchers to easily and immediately order materials such as antibodies and genetic tools via an online portal.
The toolkit is important for many avenues of Covid research, including characterising new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It will also help researchers to improve our understanding of Covid-19 disease, monitor vaccine efficacy and evaluate additional treatment options for Covid-19, as well as helping to aid preparedness for future coronavirus pandemics.
The resources and technologies available in the toolkit, including SARS-CoV-2 infectious clones, patient isolates, cell lines and antibodies, have been made openly available to research groups worldwide to accelerate research through a user-friendly webpage and established biorepositories.
Professor Dario Alessi, Director of MRC-PPU at Dundee, said, “We are delighted to have been able to use our expertise and facilities to support this valuable project. I thank the dedicated work of dozens of our Unit’s researchers who have contributed to this project. Generating similar toolkits of reagents to other viruses and pathogens should be considered.”
The toolkit has already been used in a number of high-profile studies into the virus.
The details, published today in PLOS Biology, sets out how the toolkit was developed to meet an urgent need for validated laboratory resources to facilitate research in labs unaccustomed to working with coronaviruses.
When new viruses emerge, very little is known about them, and currently there are very few labs within the UK with the capabilities to generate mutant viruses and harness these viral mutations for research. The toolkit and its reverse genetics system make materials accessible to other biology labs who are keen to make an impact to further research into SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Dr Sam Wilson, Senior Research Fellow at the CVR, said, “The development of vaccines for Covid-19 is encouraging, but there is still a lot to learn about this virus. The simple genetic tools we’ve made available to the community will help scientists understand the role of individual changes in new variants of SARS-CoV-2 (which often contain multiple individual changes) – and our online toolkit and portal will allow scientists to access antibodies and other tools for research, at cost, at the click of a few buttons.”
The paper, ‘A Plasmid DNA-Launched SARS-CoV-2 1 Reverse Genetics System and 2 Coronavirus Toolkit for Covid-19 Research,’ is published in PLOS Biology. The work was funded primarily by the MRC.
The toolkit can be found here: https://mrcppu-covid.bio/.
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