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Identifying diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic strategies

Study of the biology of Covid-19 and its related pathology in a reconstituted human respiratory epithelium model

The VirPath team, at the International Center for Infectiology Research in Lyon, has been working since early 2020 on Covid-19. Its aim is to better understand the biology of the virus to allow the prognosis and/or diagnosis of the related pathology, and to provide appropriate therapeutic strategies. The VirPath team has developed an infection model for SARS-CoV-2 in a reconstituted human respiratory epithelium model in order to conduct its research as closely as possible to real conditions.

Project Identity

Project initiator: International Center for Infectiology Research (CIRI), Virology and human Pathology laboratory - VirPath, Claude Bernard Lyon University Years of support: 2020

Location: Lyon, France

Amount provided: EUR 50,000


Characterization of the biology of SARS-CoV-2

The aim of Dr. Terrier and the VirPath team at the International Center for Infectiology Research (CIRI) is to generate new data on the biology of SARS-CoV-21 to identify the biomarkers for prognosis and/or diagnosis and future anti-viral strategies.

In order to characterize the biology of SARS-CoV-2 and its related pathology, Dr. Terrier and the CIRI team are studying the following:

  • on the one hand, the infection’s impact on the physiology of the reconstituted human respiratory epithelium
  • on the other hand, the cellular responses to the infection on the molecular genetic scale

1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2

An experimental pre-clinical model

To allows this work to take place, Olivier Terrier and his colleagues have developed an infection model for SARS-CoV-2 in a reconstituted human respiratory epithelium model. This experimental pre-clinical model enables the assessment of treatments in conditions closest to the physiology of the respiratory tract. The respiratory epithelium’s functions include pulmonary ventilation, defense and conditioning of inhaled air; it plays a central role in the early stages of the infection.

Medication research

The team at CIRI has been working since mid-January 2020. It has managed to isolate several strains of SARS-CoV-2 using samples from the first cases in France, hospitalized at Bichat hospital in Paris. The team started a program to identify medications that are already authorized on the market and that could be used for their anti-viral properties. The team has been involved in the pre-clinical evaluation of several candidate medications that are now in the clinical trial phase.


©International Center for Infectiology Research in Lyon / SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus attached to the cilia of human respiratory epithelial cells. This is one of the very first images of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolated from patients.

How the Air Liquide Foundation is participating

The Air Liquide Foundation is assisting with the acquisition of a fluorescent microscope, reagents and consumables.