COVID-19 Research Funding

In May of 2020 the Foundation committed funding to an urgent, fast-tracked fund specifically for COVID-19 medical research. In these extraordinary times, we responded rapidly to the need for research in this area and have used a truncated application and review process for awarding funds.

These funds have now been awarded, read on to learn more. 


Assessing the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Associate Professor James Ussher
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago

Understanding the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, the cause of COVID-19, is critical for understanding the disease and for vaccine design. In this study we will evaluate the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in patients who were confirmed to have COVID-19 and who have recovered. Blood will be collected and stimulated with fragments of different SARS-CoV-2 proteins to determine and clearly identify T cell responses. This will inform work on the design of a vaccine to combat SARS-CoV- 2.

Development of a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein pseudovirus assay

Professor Alex McLellan
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago

We will develop a non-infectious and safe platform towards the therapeutic treatment of COVID-19 patients with (convalescent) serum from patients that have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. The project will develop the use of a safe (non-replicating and non-virulent) model to study the interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 with human cells. The study will form the basis for future use of convalescent sera treatment for patients. In addition, the techniques will be valuable for screening new and existing drugs that might prevent virus attachment and entry into host cells

The impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on human neurons

Dr. Indranil Basak
Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on our lives. Thousands of patients have died with various complications. Although lung infections primarily account for the most serious outcomes, a progressively increasing number of cases of COVID-19 involve neurological symptoms like loss of taste and smell, dizziness, unconsciousness, seizures, encephalitis and stroke. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, can attack the brain, manifesting as brain dysfunction leading to aforementioned symptoms. Hence, our aim is to investigate the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on neurons, the fundamental units of the brain, which are likely involved in the observed neurological complications.