Work to develop a coronavirus vaccine and diagnostic reagents


Researchers in the School of Biosciences are working to help generate a vaccine against coronavirus and at the same time are also providing support to a key company developing urgently required antigen and antibody tests.

Using the School of Biosciences expertise in recombinant protein production, synthetic biology and bioinformatics, researchers have identified key antigen targets within the virus, developed and assembled constructs and will employ plug and play technology to help generate immune-responsive particles.

The team at Kent is led by Professors Mark Smales and Martin Warren and the project reflects the remarkable versatility of groups that have already turned their hand to tackling global research challenges through the provision of vaccines, biotherapeutics and nutrients in developing countries. The team is working closely with colleagues at the Quadram Institute in Norwich and virologists in the University of Liverpool so that the project can move forward a quickly as possible. It is also collaborating with Mologic, whose Chief Scientific Officer Prof Paul Davis holds Honorary Professor Status at Kent, working on diagnostics and antibody development as several of the targets being expressed are essential in developing new coronavirus tests.

It is important to emphasise that all members of Biosciences have contributed to the project either by providing direct support or by staying at home and doing their bit to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Remember – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives – and the research team within Biosciences has been deliberately kept small because of this.

The project will continue to involve the pervasive expertise within the School as it develops. It is heartening that so much has been achieved already in such a short space of time, reflecting not only the skills of the School’s researchers but also the state-of-the-art equipment available to them.

(Diagrams show the trimeric Corvid-19 Spike protein)