Division of Basic Medical Research Research Projects on COVID-19

2020.3.4

Rapid research and development (R&D) is now required to address the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has spread worldwide since its first outbreak reported in the People’s Republic of China in December 2019. In view of this urgent public health need, AMED is supporting R&D projects in the areas described below as part of a government-wide initiative.

(1)Diagnosis

Research Period Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title General Description
FY2019 SUZUKI Tadaki Director, Department of Pathology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases Research on development of diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) The research group will aim to develop the basic technology for use in rapid diagnostic test kits for SARS-CoV-2. The group will focus on molecular and antibody based diagnostic technologies such as RT-LAMP, SARS-CoV-2 antigen detection assay, and anti-viral antibody detection assay. The group will also conduct viral genome analysis using clinical samples to develop robust diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2.

(2)Therapeutics

Research Period Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title General Description
FY2019 TAKEDA Makoto Director, Department of Virology 3, National Institute of Infectious Diseases Research on  replication mechanisms and anti-viral therapeutic agents of the novel coronavirus

To develop therapeutic drugs for the novel betacoronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, multiple approaches are being used to identify compounds that inhibit the virus growth. By random screening of existing approved drug libraries and other compound libraries and infection mechanism, structural and biological evidence-based drug screening, infection-inhibitory molecules that suppress viral infection can be identified. In addition, by using a high-throughput monoclonal antibody isolation technique, a human type therapeutic monoclonal antibody against the virus is rapidly being established. 

Currently work is being done on the analysis of infection mechanisms, purification and structural analysis of high-purity proteins, screening of small molecule compound libraries, preparation of recombinant antigens targeting therapeutic antibodies, research and development of human monoclonal antibodies using these antigens, screening of existing drugs, virus propagation development of a real-time RT-PCR system for monitoring systems and screening of natural compound libraries.

Research participants: National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Hokkaido University, Kitasato University, Kyushu University

(3)Vaccine

Research Period Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title General Description
FY2019 HASEGAWA Hideki Director, Influenza Virus Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases Research on development of vaccines of the novel coronavirus disease(COVID-19) The research group will aim to develop a new vaccine by combining adjuvant and antigen vaccine using recombinant protein synthesis.
FY2019 KAWAOKA Yoshihiro Professor, Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo Study on the control of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) This research aims to develop effective therapeutics and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 by undertaking the following:
1) establish an animal model for the SARS-CoV-2 infection. We will determine whether marmosets, hamsters, mice, or ferrets that are susceptible to SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV are useful as animal models of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
2) establish human monoclonal antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of SARS-CoV-2-infected patients and verify their usefulness as therapeutic antibodies in animal models.
3) generate an mRNA vaccine encoding the spike(S) protein, a coronavirus infection protection antigen, and verify the protective effects of this vaccine in animal models. The basic technology for mRNA vaccines has already been established by the Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd. Even with limited information about SARS-CoV-2 growth mechanisms, it is feasible to develop mRNA vaccines, which are relatively easy to design and do not require cell substrates for vaccine production.

Reference

DAIICHI SANKYO COMPANY, LIMITED Website:
Our Company's Efforts to Limit the Spread of the Virus that Causes COVID-19

(4)Clinical Research

Research Period Principal Investigator Affiliation Project Title General Description
FY2019 YUZAWA Yukio Hospital Director, Fujita Health University Hospital Study on multicenter open-label randomized clinical trial of favipiravir to evaluate the viral load reduction effect in asymptomatic and mild patients with SARS-CoV2 infection/A multicenter observational study to evaluate the clinical course of moderate and severe patients receiving favipiravir Favipiravir is an antiviral drug created by Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd. (Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd.) It was approved by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in March 2014, limiting the indications and effects to “emerging or re-emerging influenza virus infections (only if other anti-influenza virus drugs are ineffective or insufficiently effective).” The mechanism of action is that triphosphorylated form (T-705RTP) converted in vivo selectively inhibits viral RNA polymerase, so it is expected to be effective against RNA viruses other than influenza virus, but there is no evidence of utility for SARS-CoV2 infection.
The aim of this research is to clarify the usefulness of favipiravir for asymptomatic and mild patients with SARS-CoV2 infection and the clinical course of moderate and severe patients receiving favipiravir by Specified Clinical Research.

Last updated 2020.4.17