Emerging topic: The COVID-19 pandemic


Against the background of the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, HIRI has taken immediate actions to identify ways to render the virus harmless.


identifying new Ways 

We are taking a closer look at a strategy that the novel corona virus employs to multiply within the host: this strategy is called ribosomal frameshifting. 

Neva Caliskan and her group "Recoding mechanisms in infection" are currently working to biophysically characterize the interaction partners involved in the infection process of SARS-CoV-2.

HIRI group leader Emmanuel Saliba is using single-cell RNA-seq to obtain time-resolved RNA maps for individual cells from infected patients.

The research groups around Helmholtz junior investigators Mathias Munschauer and Redmond Smyth aim to find out which factors control the reproduction of the virus in the host. In a holistic approach, they identify the interaction partners of the virus in the host. In this way, it can be determined which host factors are essential for the reproduction of the virus.

Our scientists will employ state-of-the-art technology available at HIRI and its national and international cooperation partners to investigate how the novel coronavirus enters the host and how it uses the host’s body to multiply and to elucidate the symptoms of COVID-19.

Publications on SARS-CoV-2

A direct RNA-protein interaction atlas of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA in infected human cells

HIRI scientist Mathias Munschauer, together with colleagues of the JMU Würzburg and the Broad Institute (Cambridge, USA), develops the first global atlas of direct interactions between the SARS-CoV-2 RNA and the proteome of the human host. The study was published as a preprint on bioRxiv.

Severe COVID-19 is marked by a dysregulated myeloid cell compartment

Nationwide research network with HIRI participation publishes current findings on COVID-19 in the journal Cell

Characterization of Cas12a nucleases reveals diverse PAM profiles between closely-related orthologs

In a recent paper published in Nucleic Acids Research, HIRI researchers find natural ways to overcome limitations of the genome-editing tool.

Our research

render the virus harmless

The joint aim of our research efforts on SARS-CoV-2 at HIRI is to strategically acquire knowledge about central aspects of the infection process and disease development to identify the Achilles' heels of SARS-CoV-2.

This will provide the basis to initiate the second step of the value chain: to exploit the gained knowledge to develop effective treatments against SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses to counteract this and future pandemics.

A promising approach for the rapid development of a cure for COVID-19 and many other diseases are mRNA vaccines.  Several interviews of HIRI scientists regarding the advantages, characteristics and application possibilities of these innovative vaccines and the current state of research at the HIRI can be found in the following articles and the video interview with Prof Jörg Vogel (German only).

Further information on SARS-CoV-2 and the research efforts undertaken by our parent center, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research can be found here. 


Media coverage

Researchers at the HIRI are highly demanded interview partners on the topic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and provide assessments of the situation. Here you can find selected articles:

„Russischer Impfstoff: Würzburger Forscher warnen vor Risiken“

HIRI director Jörg Vogel and HIRI-affiliated virologist Lars Dölken take a stand on the Russian corona vaccine in this interview (Mainpost, 12.08.2020).

"Corona-Impfstoff: Würzburger Professor hat ,gute Nachrichten' "

In this newspaper interview (Mainpost, 27.07.2020) Jörg Vogel shares his view on the status of vaccine development against SARS-CoV2.

"Der Würzburger Infektionsbiologe Jörg Vogel erforscht das Coronavirus"

Bayern 2 Podcast "DAS AKTUELLE INTERVIEW AUS FRANKEN" (06.05.2020) withHIRI director Jörg Vogel on Corona research at the HIRI and the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus (German only).

"We need to fully understand the course of the infection as well as the ensuing host response to help healthcare professionals to treat high-risk patients. The analysis of virus-host interactions on the single-cell level could be key, it would allow us to pinpoint molecular factors and cellular pathways for prioritizing drug targets."

Jörg Vogel, in his LifeTime COVID-19 interview read more

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