Spiez Laboratory and Epithelix

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of CHF 1,250,024 to promote Henipavirus antiviral development.

The main goal of the supported project is to establish standardized protocols for Henipavirus infection and antiviral treatment in reconstituted human airway epithelia under BSL-4 conditions. Once established, this experimental platform will provide a critical step in the evaluation of novel henipavirus antivirals, including those designed or developed specifically in the context of the PAD initiative.

The project, led by Hulda R. Jonsdottir and Olivier Engler at Spiez Laboratories who will work in close collaboration with the biotech company Epithelix, will (i) investigate Henipavirus replication in four distinct pulmonary in vitro culture models using nasal, bronchial, bronchiolar, and alveolar epithelium reconstituted from primary human cells; (ii) develop, standardize, and deploy an assay based on reconstituted epithelia to screen and test antivirals against Henipaviruses in respiratory epithelial cell culture models under BSL-4 conditions; (iii) identify communal and differential biomarkers of Henipavirus infection in the respective epithelia, to aid in the discovery and evaluation of new therapeutics.

The collaboration between Spiez Laboratory and Epithelix combines the advantages of physiologically relevant and commercially available epithelial culture model systems with a state-of-the-art BSL-4 facility and will deliver a standardized and reproducible protocol for antiviral testing against Henipaviruses, facilitating open access science and reproducibility.

The 3-year project will commence January 2024.

Picture credit Spiez Laboratories