Dutch Research is Working Together Towards Coronavirus Solutions
Life Sciences & Health approach shows collaboration is in the Dutch DNA
In his recent television address to the nation, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte stated the following about the coronavirus pandemic: ‘the challenge we face is enormous, and all 17 million of us will have to work together to overcome it. Together we will get through this difficult period.” The Life Sciences & Health sector in Holland, which has always had a highly collaborative collective mindset, is a reflection of this statement. Under pressure, it works together, seeks connections, and pulls together for the greater good.
The Dutch approach in Life Sciences & Health
Collaboration is firmly ingrained in the Dutch DNA. A willingness to cooperate across all levels of society is what helps the Dutch tackle the challenges of living in a dynamic delta environment. This is never more true than today. When challenges threaten the health and safety of millions and disrupt daily life, knowledge institutions are working together trying to find solutions for mitigating the spread of the disease.
Pioneering Dutch coronavirus research
Positive news came from the world-renowned Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam on March 14th that the first-ever antibody to COVID-19 had been isolated. Erasmus MC’s Department of Virology, together with researchers from Utrecht University (UU), have collaborated in the past to develop antibodies for previous SARS, MERS, and Hongkong coronavirus OC-43. One of these antibodies, which was there all along in the back of the refrigerator on the tenth floor of the Erasmus building, appeared to be the world’s first for the coronavirus.
The article describing the research is awaiting approval by the prestigious scientific journal Nature. Professor of Cell Biology at the Erasmus MC Frank Grosveld stated: ‘The antibody prevents the virus from being able to infect, and can also help in the detection of the virus.’ The article is currently under peer review, and the antibody will still need to be tested on humans, but it is a glimmer of hope in the current situation.
Joint effort by Dutch medical research institutes
Both research institutes are helped in their efforts by the Maastricht University, which has opened up its laboratories to the researchers from Erasmus MC and Utrecht University. ‘We have set a part of our own research aside and given priority to the coronavirus,’ commented Peter Peters, Professor of Nanobiology at Maastricht University. Peters’ own research covers ‘spikes’, or the pointed ends of the coronavirus that make contact with mucus cells in the throat and nose. ‘Unique disciplines all over the world must work together to defeat this virus,’ he concludes.
Dutch research comes together in pursuit of coronavirus treatments and a vaccine
Other Dutch research institutes are not sitting still either when pursuing treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus. Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen and Utrecht University are analyzing whether the tuberculosis vaccine (BCG vaccine) will improve protection against coronavirus for health care employees. Medical researchers at the University of Amsterdam Medical Center, VU University in Amsterdam and Maastricht University Medical Center are using artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to find out how patients can best be treated for coronavirus. Groningen University and UMCG are examining whether inhalation of a mix of edited malaria medicines might protect against COVID-19. The University of Leiden Medical Center has started a crowd-funding initiative for their research into potential virus inhibitors and antiviral screening for COVID-19. On top of that the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)and the blood bank Sanquin are working together to research the possibilities of group immunity for the virus, and the UMC Utrecht will join a large international study analyzing the effectiveness of existing antivirals in coronavirus patients.25 March 2020