Urgent research credits allocated by the FNRS for ongoing efforts in the fight against coronavirus

To mobilize researchers from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and help them contribute rapidly to responses to the coronavirus crisis, the Fund for Scientific Research-FNRS launched early April a “Special Coronavirus Call”.

The aim is to provide short-term funding (1 April - 31 August 2020) of a maximum of €60.000 for teams that already started research or are about to initiate studies on coronavirus. €1 million has just been granted to 21 scientific projects! Research topics concern the following priorities: epidemiological and translational studies, physiopathogenesis of disease (virus-host interactions and immune response), infection prevention and control in the healthcare setting and in community settings, but also development of tests in clinical biology/screening.

Among the 21 recipients of the FNRS Urgent Research Credits, three are members of the NARILIS institute:

Prof. Benoît Muylkens (UNamur, NARILIS, Veterinary medicine): "Solving the issue of diagnostic reagents shortage to monitor SARS-CoV-2 spreading in various contexts of coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic"

To overcome the use of reagents that were in short supply worldwide, the team of Benoît Muylkens developed at the very onset of the epidemic outbreak in Belgium an alternative method to diagnose Covid-19. The technique relies on a manual protocol for extraction of viral RNA followed by RT-qPCR analysis. A starting pack and detailed protocol are made available to guide every laboratory with expertise in molecular biology to develop a robust SARS-CoV2 screening plateform.

Prof. Stéphane Lucas (UNamur, NISM / NARILIS, Physics): "Development of sampling devices for the purpose of diagnosis"

Shortage of swabs also hampered Covid-19 testing. Furthermore, several issues related to handling of swab collection tubes were identified, such as exposure of operators to contaminated materials, risk for cross-contamination of samples and a processing which is difficult to automate. The aim of Stéphane Lucas’ project is to develop optimized sampling devices in order to maximize the yield of collected material while maintaining the patient comfort and to minimize post-collection handling steps. These optimizations are achieved using laser sintering 3D printing and plasma surface treatment technologies.

Prof. François Mullier (CHU UCL Namur-Godinne, NTHC-NARILIS, Hematology laboratory): "Evaluation of the thrombotic risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and its management in the intensive care unit: a clinical and biological longitudinal study"

Covid-19 is associated with hemostasis imbalance and a high risk of thrombosis, of which underlying mechanisms remain largely unexplored. The aim of this observational cohort study is to describe the longitudinal changes in primary hemostasis, thrombin generation and fibrinolysis laboratory parameters in severe Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care unit, and to identify the most relevant parameters associated with thrombosis. This is a multidisciplinary project involving intensive care, anesthesiology and laboratory departments of the CHU UCL Namur, the Namur Thrombosis and Hemostasis Center (NTHC) as well as the Pharmacy Department of the UNamur. This project is part of the PhD thesis of Dr. Michael Hardy (anesthesiology department).