Donations contribute to new research on COVID-19

19 May 2020

Professor Björn Olsen

The new project being led by professor Björn Olsen is looking to understand how and why certain people become severely ill from the coronavirus while others hardly have any symptoms at all.

The Einhorn Family Foundation has donated over SEK 500,000 to research at Uppsala University to help develop treatments against COVID-19. The donation will be used in a study looking at what causes the dramatic immunological reaction that makes some people severely ill. Another project studying COVID-19 and cancer has received a grant from the Foundation for International Oncological Cooperation. .

“The need of quickly finding solutions to a global health problem has never been greater than during the current COVID-19 pandemic. When a pandemic hits, countries and regions with weak health care systems are the worst effected, and we help both them and ourselves when we work together to find effective treatments. We are glad to be able to contribute and look forward to following the researchers’ work,” says Professor Stefan Einhorn, chair of the Einhorn Family Foundation.

At the SciLifeLab research centre, Uppsala is one of the four universities mobilising research resources in a joint effort against COVID-19. In a national call for proposals earlier this year, over 280 project proposals were submitted. An expert group at SciLifeLab prioritised these proposals to determine which projects should benefit from donated funds.

Project to understand how and why

Understanding exactly how and why individuals become severely ill from the coronavirus while others hardly have any symptoms at all is a key to developing treatments for COVID-19. It has been observed among the most severely ill patients that the virus infection stimulates the immune defences to enter a hyperactive state (known as cytokine storm), which in turn triggers life-threatening processes.

The chosen project is led by Björn Olsen, senior physician and professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University. The project’s goal is to develop a research platform to primarily analyse how cells from different parts of the human respiratory tract react to COVID-19 virus infections with different genetic variations. The reaction to the infection will be studied at the individual cell level, which will also provide insights into how the virus mutates over time.

Donations can open new fronts

“We are extremely grateful for and welcome this initiative from the Einhorn Family Foundation. The donation supports research that can open new fronts to understanding and treating the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, I’d like to thank SciLifeLab’s management, which quickly collected and assessed project proposals from throughout Sweden, coordinating Swedish research efforts in an exemplary way. We welcome additional donations to these projects. Thanks to SciLifeLab’s teamwork, we can ensure that donations will reach the projects where they will have the greatest impact,” says Professor Eva Åkesson, vice-chancellor at Uppsala University.

Project on COVID-19 and cancer

The foundation Stiftelsen för Internationellt Onkologiskt Samarbete has donated funds to Uppsala University to support research on COVID-19, within the framework for the University’s joint efforts at SciLifeLab. The foundation is contributing SEK 100,000 to a research project on how COVID-19 impacts patients undergoing cancer treatment when they become ill with the virus. The project is being led by Gunilla Enblad, professor at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

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About the Einhorn Family Foundation:

The Einhorn Family Foundation was established in 2009 by the married couple Stefan and Susanne Einhorn. The foundation donates funds to projects aimed at promoting health, particularly among children, in low- and medium-income countries. Most of the projects that receive funding are scientific in nature. Board Chair Stefan Einhorn is a professor of molecular oncology at Karolinska Institutet, senior physician at Radiumhemmet, chair of the Center for Social Sustainability at KI and an author and lecturer.

About the Foundation for International Oncological Cooperation (*Stiftelsen för Internationellt Onkologiskt Samabete'):

The foundation’s primary purpose is to use international collaboration as a way of promoting scientific research and education for cures for cancer. This is done in particular through conferences and other appropriate means to disseminate important research findings within the field among scientists.