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Finnish research focuses on COVID-19

An effective response combines existing solutions and the right dose of novel insights and innovations.VTT

Universities in Finland are making progress in the race to understand and mitigate the new coronavirus.

The global pandemic has refocused research efforts around the world to combat the causes of the outbreak and develop effective treatments. Finnish universities have several projects in motion to conduct basic research on COVID-19, bring forth potential treatments and model the spread of the virus.

“We are developing rapid tests and, in particular, antibody tests, in regard to which the aim is as fast a deployment as possible,” said Tarja Sironen, associate professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Helsinki.

“Coronavirus infection generates antibodies in the infected individuals, but antibodies could also be administered as a drug to patients, bypassing the need to wait for their body to start producing them,” she continued.

The main focus of the medicinal research is testing whether any of the existing and approved antiviral agents could work. “If existing drugs present suitable options, it all comes down solely to the speed of production. Such drugs could already become available in the next few months,” told Sironen.

“Time to roll up the sleeves”

In another project, Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, CSC IT Center for Science, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have pooled their resources in an effort to develop a 3D model of the coronavirus using CSC’s supercomputer. The model will help to understand how the virus is transmitted in the air and provide insights as to whether the virus is able to survive in the air.

“One aim is to find out how quickly the virus concentrations dilute in the air in various airflow situations that could arise in places such as a grocery store,” said Ville Vuorinen, assistant professor at Aalto University.

“Visualising the invisible movements of viral particles is very important in order to better understand the spreading of infectious diseases and the different phenomena related to this, both now and in the future.”

Fluid dynamics physicists, virologists and biomedical engineering specialists are working together on a model for airborne pathogens. Image: Petteri Peltonen/Aalto University

According to the research team, the multidisciplinary co-operative approach and high computing power will be able to produce the first results in a matter of weeks.

“I fully encourage other researchers to do research on the coronavirus epidemic as it is really time to roll up the sleeves,” commented Vuorinen. “Within the space of just a few hours, we have put a team together and started research immediately.”

By: Samuli Ojala