Switzerland is at the forefront in the fight against coronavirus. A team from the Institute of Virology and Immunology at the University of Bern, led by Professor Volker Thiel, has succeeded in creating a synthetic clone of the virus. This breakthrough could accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments against the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“We can now modify the virus in targeted ways, such as removing a gene and seeing if it replicates less efficiently. We will then know how important a particular gene is for its replication,” explained virologist Volker Thiel to Swiss television SRF. “We are mainly interested in characterizing the virus genes in order to study how it behaves and identify its weaknesses.”
The research is conducted in a high containment lab in Mittelhäusern, in the canton of Bern. This facility is one of the few in the world where samples of the “real” virus are handled. The Swiss scientists have already received a large number of requests from laboratories around the world to use the virus clones for their own research.