COVID-19 has infected more that 2 million people worldwide since December 2019. The likelihood of that happening again is even more frightening. New predictions by Imperial College point to a second SARS-CoV-2 outbreak next fall. This would bring us back to a similar situation to the current one in a few months: deaths, saturated health system, confinement, and a severe socio-economic crisis.
What it does
Prepare our society to face the second wave of infections in just 4 months, minimizing, and even eliminating, the tremendous losses in human lives and socio-economic costs.
How we built it
Performing a complete population immunization test. Little is known about the immune response induced by SARS-CoV-2. We do not know whether SARS-CoV-2 induces the production of antibodies, how long they would be present in our bodies, and whether these antibodies would protect us against new waves of infection. We are a multidisciplinary group of experts in the field of immunology, cell & molecular biology, public health, epidemiology, virology and economics, We have developed an easy, quick and scalable methodology to address the issues mentioned above. Thus, our project includes:
-Step 1. Immunological tests, which include:
Rapid tests that will identify the presence / absence of IgM/ IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assays (ELISA) to quantify the antibodies generated against the SARS- CoV-2 Spike protein.
Neutralization tests, to enable the assessment of the antibodies’ neutralizing capacity. This is essential to verify whether we will be protected against future waves of infection. These tests are the differential point of our proposal, as simple detection of antibodies does not guarantee protection against a second wave of infections. Only a specific type of neutralizing antibodies can block the infection.
-Step 2. Classifying the population
According to their degree of protection. Based on the data obtained from the immunological tests, the study population would be divided into four groups:
-Step 3. Defining customized action protocols.
High protection: These individuals would be protected against future infections; therefore, they could continue with their routine activities.
Medium protection: Selective confinement and the use of individual protection material would be recommended.
Low protection: Confinement would be suggested during the second wave of infection due to the lack of immunization and the risks that this entails for these individuals.
No protection: Confinement and clinical follow-up would be suggested for those subjects who present medical risk factors predisposing to develop severe Covid-19.
In summary, our proposal offers personalised recommendations based on individual clinical records and immune protection against SARS-CoV-2, with the aim of protecting the most vulnerable.
Our proposal would enable already immunized individuals to resume their activities safely, thereby limiting socio-economic collapse.
Challenges we ran into
Nowadays the availability of commercial kits to assess the presence of IgG towards SARS-CoV-2 might be a limitation. Therefore, by also developing ELISA tests we can avoid this limitation. ELISA tests will both evaluate the presence of antibodies and quantify them. Thus, we can develop our project independently and without the limitations currently witnessed with external distributors.
Setting up protocols: we count on the expertise and support from our University to use our facilities. However, we still have to set up protocols and standardize quality in record time.
Scaling up protocols: procedures need to be easy, cost-effective and feasible in order to ensure their escalation at the EU level. Training period must be brief within a context of basic laboratory equipment.
Data-protection, transmission and preservation is essential for the development of steps 2 and 3 of our project. This challenge is currently being addressed by analyzing the possibility of incorporating blockchain technology into the project.
The increasing amount of world-wide proposals on the development and implementation of antibody tests has led to an intense debate on the trade-off between privacy rights and adoption of measures based on immunity test results. Cooperation at the EU level could help us address a common solution to this trade-off
Accomplishments that we are proud of
• A team of experienced researchers and professors (20years) from Universidad San Pablo CEU, Madrid, Spain. Currently managing different competitive international and national research projects, with a total funding of 25000euros.
• Since 17 April, that we launched the project in Madrid Hackaton, we have gathered: more than 30.000 YouTube video views, and expression of interest by NGOs, researchers, commertial laboratorios, private firms, in just a few days.
• With strategic alliances with universities, research centres, scientific societies and patient associations in national and international consortia. -> Microbiology Department of Icahn School of Medicine At Mount Sinai, Microbiology Department at University of Geneva, Facultad de Medicina de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, CNIC, CNB, INIA, CNM-ISCIII, Hospital 12 de Octubre, IIOCC-HM Hospitales, ONG: https://stopcovid.io/.
• With strategic alliances with universities, research centres, scientific societies and patient associations in national and international consortia.
• With leadership, having more than 150 scientific articles in the areas of interest like: Virology, Innate immune response, Immunology and Molecular Biology, Epidemiology, Genetics and cancer reseach, Bioinformatics.
What we learned
Collaborative intelligence is essential in scientific progress. Immunology response to SARS-CoV-2 is the key to prevent and be protected against further waves of infection. Understanding the immunological response to SARS-CoV-2 will be essential to obtain an effective vaccine against the virus.
What's next for BREAKING WAVES COVID-19
We are running a pilot study to start developing the proposed tests at our University and Hospital. Once the methodologies are implemented and their quality tested, we plan to train researchers in other Universities, health system and research institutes to perform the same test. This will enable us to scale the Project and to even implement the technology at the EU level.
What do we need
-Partnership with European research groups and laboratory facilities. -National Governments and European Union support. -Financing aid will be key to scale up our proposal to the European territory.
Isabel Adoración Martín Antoniano, PhD.: Associate professor at the Medical School, Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized in Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Bioinformatics and Epidemiology. https://investigacionusp.ceu.es/ipublic/agent-personal/profile/iMarinaID/04-272249
Maria M Escribese, PhD. Vide Dean of Research and Associate Professor at the Medical School, Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized in immune response. https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-marta-escribese-alonso-2b6424146/
Silvia Martín Lluesma, MD-PhD. Collaborating Professor Doctor at Universidad CEU San Pablo. Advanced Therapies Manager at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO). Expertise in Clinical Development of T-cell Therapies and Therapeutic Vaccines. https://www.linkedin.com/in/silviamartinlluesma/
Martha Carro Fernández, PhD. Associate Professor of Economics at Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized in International Political Economy. https://www.linkedin.com/in/martha-c-a71427/ https://www.uspceu.com/alumnos/facultad-ciencias-economicas-empresariales/profesores
Laura Twomey Díaz. Bachelor student of Biotechnology at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. www.linkedin.com/in/laura-twomey-diaz
Evangelina López de Maturana López de Lacalle, PhD. Staff scientist at CNIO and associate professor at Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized in Statistical genomics, Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology. www.linkedin.com/in/evangelina-lópez-de-maturana-lópez-de-lacalle
Cristina Gomez-Casado, PhD. Postdoctoral Researcher at the Medical School of San Pablo-CEU University, Madrid, Spain. Board Member of the Basic and Clinical Immunology Section of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Specialized in Mucosal Immunology. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7707-6367 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cristina_Gomez-Casado
Estanislao Nistal-Villan, PhD. Associated Professor of Virology and Microbiology at the Faculty of Pharmacy of San Pablo-CEU University, Madrid, Spain. Principal investigator at the Virology and Innate Immunity Lab at the Applied Molecular Medicine Institute at San Pablo CEU University. https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=IQM3DSwAAAAJ&hl=en https://www.linkedin.com/in/estanislaonistalvillan/?locale=es_ES https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Estanislao_Nistal-Villan
Marina Pérez-Gordo, PhD. Preclinic Director of Medicine Degree and Associate Professor at the Medical School, Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized in Human Histology and Cellular Biology. http://linkedin.com/in/marina-pérez-gordo-46353259 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marina_Perez-Gordo
Pablo C. García-Sánchez, PhD. Associate Professor at the Medical School, Universidad San Pablo CEU. Specialized on Educational Innovation in Medical Education and Clinical Integration https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7053-1857 https://www.linkedin.com/in/pcgarciasanchez/