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Professor Imre Berger is interviewed by The Biologist on COVID-19 vaccine work

6 May 2020

The Professor of Biochemistry discusses how researchers in Bristol and beyond are working to create a vaccine

Professor Imre Berger, of the School of Biochemistry, has been interviewed by The Biologist to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine work being undertaken by the Bristol UNCOVER team. He says "Bristol scientists of many walks of life reacted speedily to the outbreak. Adam Finn from the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre pulled together these diverse strands of activity forming Bristol UNCOVER, short for Bristol University COVID-19 Emergency Research group. A core team of volunteers in my laboratory is tasked within UNCOVER to use our eukaryotic expression facility for producing reagents required for assays being set up at Bristol.

These include protein components of the SARS-CoV-2, the human receptor protein the virus uses for cell entry, and others used for serological testing. We are also supplying our structural biologists, led by Christiane Schaffitzel, with mutant and variant forms of the viral proteins for cryo-electron microscopy.

Most importantly, we are working around the clock with Bristol biotech Imophoron to produce COVID-19 candidate vaccines based on our ADDomer platform, for preclinical tests."

Professor Berger also talked about the reaction of researchers across institutions. He says "The collaborative spirit at Bristol University and within the Bristol UNCOVER Group is extraordinary and in my view unprecedented. Coordinated by Adam Finn, we e-meet every morning for a briefing on the activities of by now over 40 senior researchers from all walks of life, including clinicians, biologists, chemists, epidemiologists, virologists, engineers but also administrators, lawyers and public health experts – to discuss the chores at hand and progress made.

The esprit-de-corps is fantastic. Multiple connections have been made, leading to rapid solutions to otherwise insuperable problems and new ideas are being generated and taken forward almost on a daily basis. Processes which would take weeks and months ordinarily are fast-tracked through university administration within days."

You can read the full interview on the The Biologist's website here: https://thebiologist.rsb.org.uk/biologist-covid-19/189-biologist/biologist-covid-19/2330-the-collaborative-spirit-is-extraordinary-and-unprecedented

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