1. Given your background working with vaccines and contagious viruses, what surprised you most when the new coronavirus struck in March 2020 ?
Most surprising was the broad arsenal of disease complexity and how the virus could very quickly cause a pandemic disease with huge effect on society.
2. It is already known that the SARS virus can bind to the ACE2 receptor, thereby infecting cells. What is your opinion on a recombinant soluble ACE2 as a drug candidate for COVID-19 ?
Yes, this is an excellent idea, especially this approach should work very well with different virus variants.
3. What is your scenario for the pandemic and which role will play the novel virus variants of concern ?
I believe with all the vaccines available, we will soon get the pandemic under control in Europe. However, we need to have effective antivirals to use i) if new virus variants pass the vaccine protection, and/or ii) for those who have not been vaccinated.
Vanessa Monteil, …, Ali Mirazimi, and Josef M. Penninger. Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Engineered Human Tissues Using Clinical-Grade Soluble Human ACE2. CELL. 2020; 18:905-13
Prof. Ali Mirazimi from the Karolinska Institutet is a world renown virologist working on SARS-CoV-2. He gained extensive experience with ACE2, the cell entry receptor utilized by the SARS coronaviruses and APN01, its decoy version, currently developed for the therapy of COVID-19 by APEIRON Biologics. Prof. Mirazimi’s interest focuses amongst others on testing novel viral isolates (variants of concern) and their interaction with ACE2/APN01, the development of potent antivirals to treat COVID-19, and elucidating mechanisms of viral infection. He made seminal contributions to elucidating the pathophysiology and virus-host cell interactions of many viral diseases such as the Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic fever virus, Ebola virus and many others. He is a leading member and contributor to various international research consortia and research activities.