Comprehensive Tool Development for the National Covid-19 Effort

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


We are developing a comprehensive range of key reagents to aid the National and International effort against Covid-19. Covid-19 is the biggest challenge society has faced in living memory. The virus has infected many millions of people and killed over a million worldwide. In the UK, the infection rate has been among the highest in the world.
The cause of Covid-19 is the virus SARS-CoV-2 virus which belongs to a poorly understood class of coronaviruses. There is currently no approved drug nor vaccine for managing Covid-19 disease. Uncertainty on the efficacy of a vaccine makes parallel efforts into both drug and vaccine development of paramount importance for disease management. To achieve this, more understanding on viral pathogenesis is necessary, only achievable with advanced collections of reagents to act as research tools and biomarkers.
In consultation with the CVR in Glasgow, we responded early to the global threat posed by Covid-19 and started to design and produce all the key biological reagents necessary to enable to the national effort against SAR-CoV-2. While we did not have funding in place to enable this, we felt strongly that we needed to use our expertise and resources to ensure that researchers across the country had access to the key tools needed. We have produced a range of DNA constructs to allow researchers to express the proteins that make up the virus and to study the virus in living systems. We have also produced the 28 proteins themselves that make up the uptake virus as well as some related ones from similar diseases (SARS and MERS). We have also made a range of antibodies against all 28 parts of the virus to help researchers in a range of different procedures.
We have quality checked and made available all the reagents to the wider research community via our website We will apply a cost recovery to recoup some of the reagent costs of supply but need a contribution in order to finish our work and support the scientists who have worked over local down to make this project happen.

Technical Summary

In order to accelerate and facilitate the National efforts in the fight against Covid-19, we are generating an extensive portfolio of Covid related reagents. These cover all components of the Covid-19 virus and some key components of SARs and MERs, including >100 DNA clones, >50 proteins and 42 antibodies. We are making these reagents available globally in the fight against Covid via a new website we have created. The antibodies have been generated in collaboration with CVR, Glasgow and are ovine based polyclonal. These are being fully quality assessed for their utility in immunoprecipitation, western blot and imaging applications. Antigens and being developed with multiple tags and with all relevant variants and DNA clones to cover multiple expression systems and applications. To our knowledge, we are the first to have achieved this complete catalogue of Covid-19 reagents. This project was undertaken within our MRC PPU Reagents and Services Division, which is normally supported only by the income it generates from the cost recovery systems we have put in place. We are also using these tools in our Units research efforts, including screening for modulators of viral proteases and helicases, developing lateral flow and array diagnostic tests, studying the ligases involved in pathogenesis and looking at the interactions of Furan protease and its role in infection. It is crucial for the continued survival of our MRC PPU Reagents and Services operations that we receive some funding contribution for the efforts we are undertaking. We proceeded in the development of the Covid-19 toolbox before securing funding because it was equally crucial to not delay with this project that promises to accelerate the National Covid-19 effort.


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