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The European Commission releases a video showing the European project against coronavirus led by prof Laura Lechuga

The European Commission Representation in Barcelona has published the five-minute video “The EU fights the Covid-19 from Catalonia” in which four researchers explain the projects they are working on.

The researchers appearing in the video are  Laura Lechuga Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS unit 4 from CIBER-BBN and ICN2-CSIC and Group Leader of CIBER-BBN at the ICN2 Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group), who works on a sensor to detect the coronavirus in a faster, easier and cheaper way than with current PCRs, Núria Montserrat (IBEC), who works on micro-kidneys made from stem cells to test a drug able to block the virus, Alfonso Valencia (BSC), who explains the huge computation power that the BSC can bring into play to find already existent drugs that may be suitable to treat Covid-19,  and Gabriel Anzaladi (Eurecat), who studies the presence of the virus in wastewater to estimate the people infected in a given zone or the probability of a new outbreak.

The European Commission is present in all Member States through a network of offices, called “representations”, which aim to report on the Commission’s activity and to bring the policies of the European Union closer to citizens. They are also in charge of capturing the social reality and the climate of opinion at street level and transferring this information to the European institutions in Brussels so that their policies better respond to the needs of citizens. In Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, this work is carried out by the “Representation of the European Commission in Barcelona”.

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“We need a drastic change in the organization and management of science”

The Jorunal “Redacción Médica” has created an espace call Covid-19 Lessons to gather critical evaluations and recommendations of the most relevant personalities in the health sector, so that the National Health System and the professional and business ecosystem that surrounds it can draw conclusions and face future similar challenges with greater guarantees.

Laura M. Lechuga, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U4, from CIBER-BBN at ICN2-CSIC, coordinates CONVAT, one of the projects selected by the European Commission to advance in the knowledge about the Coronavirus, adds her perspective to the document Covid-19 Lessons: “We need a drastic change in the organization and management of science

According to prof. Lechuga, ·one of the main successes in this crisis has been the intense and excellent dedication of a large part of the international scientific community who, from a multidisciplinary perspective, has tried to contribute their talent and training to make great strides in the knowledge of this new SARS-CoV-2 virus; this crisis has driven this collaboration exponentially. “The rapid mobilization of funds and resources available to scientists has also been (and continues to be) impressive during this crisis. The pandemic has placed before the eyes of all humanity that the greatest values of our society lie in knowledge, training, science and research to face a problem of these dimensions that unfortunately may be repeated in the future.

As main errors, Laura Lechuga highlights the disconnection between the scientific and political world. “The scientits had contributed its knowledge and rigorous studies to warn of the dangers that lie in wait for us, but it is clear that until now the connection between scientific advice and government policies is extremely weak, not only in our country. country but also internationally”

Possibly, at the national level, our scientific system could have given a faster response if it had been much more robust and competitive and had not been so weakened due to the numerous cuts suffered since the previous crisis and the lack of replacement of researchers. Our research environment, although it is nourished by a lot of talent, is not so much in its own development resources, infrastructures and technologies, so its contribution is being more limited.

There is no doubt that we need a decided investment in science both in terms of human and material resources, and a drastic change in the organization and management of science, which causes our scientists to invest most of their valuable time in requests for funding, resources human and cumbersome administrative justifications, which have little to do with scientific research“.

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CoNVaT, the ‘Nanotrap’ for the coronavirus – highlighted by BBVA Fundation

Prof. Laura M. Lechuga, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS Unit 4 Biodeposition and Biodetection Unit (from CIBER-BBN and ICN2-CSCIC) was awarded with the Physics, Innovation and Technology Award of the Royal Spanish Physics Society (RSEF) and the BBVA Foundation 2016.

BBVA Foundation has dedicated an article to explain the  EU CoNVaT project, led by Laura Lechuga, whose objective is to obtain a diagnostic test for COVID-19 from the first day of infection, fast but highly sensitive, and which does not require a laboratory or qualified personnel. A test made with extremely sophisticated technology, and at the same time low cost, applicable to future waves of the epidemic. It is financed with more than two million euros by the European Union with a duration of one year.

The test is a biosensor that uses nanophotonics, and it will be used in two devices: one will detect virus proteins, the other, its genetic material. The heart of the device, and what gives it its main advantage over other existing diagnostic tests, is a chip that implements one of the most sensitive measurement techniques in physics: photonic interferometry. It is based on the idea that a beam of light undergoes small but measurable changes when it intersects an object. On the CoNVaT project chip, changes in the light beam will alert to the presence of the virus in the sample.

The test that will detect virus proteins is what is technically called an ‘antigen test’. It can be carried out in health centers or at sampling points, by non-specialized staff, and will give results in less than thirty minutes. Saliva samples will surely be used, although researchers are still studying it.

“The technique is so sensitive that it will be able to detect the presence of the virus from the first day of infection,” explains Lechuga. “And it will not only tell if the virus is or not, but also in what quantity. This is important because it gives an idea of ​​how advanced the infection is. ”

‘Nanotrap’ for the coronavirus

The device will occupy what a shoe box, but at its core, where the measurement takes place, everything happens on a nanometric scale, that is, to dimensions of millionths of millimeters. It is, in essence, a nanotrap for proteins. Researchers attach proteins designed in the laboratory specifically to trap certain proteins in the virus envelope to the chip; both fit as a key and lock, so that the proteins fixed on the chip are actually hooks of the highest specificity – they only capture the virus’s proteins.

Channels a few nanometers thick have also been engraved on the chip: light passes through them. These guides form a circuit with a single input, but which forks, so that only one of the branches passes through the protein trap. When both light beams meet again, it is observed that the one that has interacted with the proteins has undergone modifications, and it is the analysis of these changes that reveals the presence of the virus, and in what quantity.

The device to detect genetic material of the virus -RNA- is based on the same principle, but it should be done in the laboratory. Lettuce explains that its purpose will be above all to confirm the result of the first. It will be faster than the PCR currently used – less than half an hour versus several hours – and it does not need specialized technicians – something indispensable with PCR.

Biology is the most difficult

“In this type of device, the biological part is by far the most complex,” explains Lechuga. Anchor the proteins to the chip at the correct angle, stabilize them to resist movement, keep them in a liquid medium … “they are thirty steps”.

It is a very sophisticated technology but already validated in the clinic. The ICN2 Biosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group led by Lechuga has developed, among others, nano-biosensors that detect colon cancer early in blood samples, and also for tuberculosis and sepsis cases. “One of the reasons we have achieved the ConVAT project is that we have experience with clinical samples, which is really a completely different world than the laboratory.”

The group advances fast. They started working about three weeks ago and have just received from their French collaborators proteins that match those of the virus. Patient validation, when the device is completed, will be handled by the group in Italy.

The objective, at the end of the project, is for a company to take care of scaling the technology to bring it to the market at an affordable price. “Especially in a situation like the current one, we work with the idea that our work can reach everyone, as soon as possible,” says Lechuga.

Further information in Spanish in the original article by MÓNICA G. SALOMONE BBVA Foundation

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Biosensors for Pandemics

Next 6 of May wii take place the On-line Conference Biosensors for Pandemics: Reliable and efficient nanotech-based diagnostics in emergency situations, will gather worldwide well known experts in biosensing technologies currently working in COVID-19 diagnostics or having very relevant technologies in the field.

Prof. Laura Lechuga, Scientific Director of NANBIOSIS U4 Biodeposition and Biodetection Unit of CIBER-BBN and ICN2-CSIC, will be one of the speakers. Laura Lechuga is coordinating the European proyect CONVAT: advanced nanobiosensing platforms for point-of-care diagnostics and surveillance of coronavirus for rapid diagnosis and monitoring of COVID ー 19, 

To join

Deadlines:

Abstract Submission (ePoster request): April 22, 2020

Author Submission Acceptance Notification: April 24, 2020

Flash Poster Acceptance Notification: April 24, 2020

Early Bird Registration Fee: April 24, 2020

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