Applying HU's Scientific and Medical Expertise and Resources to Combatting the Coronavirus


The Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine is applying its full scientific and medical expertise and resources to combatting SARS-CoV-2, known as COVID-19. Many of the top Israeli scientists in the fields of virology, microbiology, immunology, cellular biology, and epidemiology are members of our Faculty and have joined forces to win this battle.

Their efforts include:

Diagnostics: HU researchers are designing and testing rapid diagnostic kits, as well as ways to identify individuals who have been exposed – by detecting antibodies in their blood. This may enable us to map resistance, improve isolation modes, and minimize the spread of the epidemic. These efforts involve a number of scientists, including Prof. Yuval Dor, Prof. Eylon Yavin, Dr. Maayan Salton.

Vaccine development: This effort is being led by scientists with previous experience with similar viruses: SARS and MERS. Our scientists are designing new vaccines and have begun producing the necessary proteins. Many researchers are involved, including Dr. Alex Rouvinski, Prof. Ora Schueler-Furman, Prof. Sigal Ben-Yehuda, Prof. Ilan Rosenshine, and Dr. Reuven Wiener.

Improving the capacity of the immune system to combat the virus: The immune system can be a double-edged sword: When fighting the Coronavirus, it produces antibodies to defeat the virus, while also producing factors that aggravate the disease, particularly the virus-induced pneumonia. Our scientists are designing novel ways to reinforce the constructive components while weakening the destructive ones. These researchers include Prof. Ofer Mandelboim, Dr. Michael Berger, Dr. Oren Parnas, and Prof. Yinon Ben-Neriah.

Model systems to study the virus and develop new drugs: Animal models are essential for testing new treatments and drugs. Our scientists are developing ways to infect mice (who are naturally immune), which will serve as models upon which to test vaccines and newly developed anti-viral drugs. These researchers include Dr. Lior Nissim and Dr. Yossi Buganim, among others.

Molecular epidemiology studies to identify susceptible and resistant populations: Genetic variations among people may explain why some people are infected and others not, and why some develop more severe disease than others. Genetic studies may reveal ways to stop this – and subsequent – epidemics. We are constructing a new biobank to study and screen genetic factors contributing to disease susceptibility. These include Dr. Shai Carmi, Dr. Yotam Drier, Prof. Asaf Hellman, Prof. Hanah Margalit, and Dr. Yuval Tabach.

Drug development to block infection and reduce tissue damage: Our cellular biologists and pharmacology scientists are experimenting with repurposing clinically approved drugs and food additives to reduce infectivity and reduce tissue damage caused by the virus. These include Prof. Shmuel Ben-Sasson, Prof. Moshe Kotler, and Prof. Albert Taraboulos.

May 2020


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