The COVID-19 pandemic poses an enormous threat for healthcare systems and economies in Austria, Europe and the world. In this time of crisis, scientists in Vienna are responding to the threat. 20 research institutions have joined forces to form the Vienna COVID-19 Diagnostics Initiative (VCDI). This initiative is now putting a new diagnostics pipeline into operation. The VCDI is also developing a range of high-throughput tests to better understand and combat the virus.
Institutional boundaries have been broken at an unprecedented level to establish new testing capacity. Researchers across Vienna, including more than 200 highly-qualified scientists, have been recruited as volunteers in less than two weeks to meet these challenges. Standard laboratory infrastructure was contributed by the partner institutes and repurposed to build an automated pipeline for detection of the virus at the Vienna Biocenter.
To meet the challenges imposed by global shortages of required testing reagents, the initiative has developed several in-house reagents that make it largely independent from external sources. This is very important at a time when COVID-19 is exposing a high-dependency on diagnostics companies and their proprietary testing kits.
Rapid transfer of knowledge is required by communities and governments to respond to the pandemic. The VCDI freely disseminates its operating procedures, know-how about building pipelines and their latest research findings. The goal is to aid other universities and research institutions to efficiently and productively contribute to the national testing capacity for COVID-19.
The VCDI is coordinated by Alwin Köhler, NOMIS researcher and scientific director of the Max Perutz Labs:
“Many labs were shut down, the scientists sent home. But more and more came back, building a diagnostics pipeline from nothing. This was not like constructing a plane on the ground — we were building a plane that was flying while the blueprints were still being drawn. I am proud of the creative energy, ingenuity and passion of all the basic researchers involved. They stepped up without a moment’s hesitation!”
Read more about VCDI
Scientific director of the Max Perutz Labs Vienna and professor of mechanistic cell biology
Max Perutz Labs Vienna