A Swiss lab made the first synthetic clone of SARS-CoV-2

The first case of coronavirus in Switzerland was detected a week ago but the virus was in the country much before that, as a laboratory sample.

This content was published on March 3, 2020 - 15:00

Three weeks before the first case was identified on Swiss soil scientists at a high security lab managed to make a synthetic clone of the coronavirus. The researchers are now trying to determine the importance of its individual genes. Their accomplishment is getting worldwide attention: labs and companies are requesting the clone to work on.

The high security laboratory is located in Mittelhäusern, a small village in canton Bern. The virologist Volker Thiel has been working with coronaviruses for a long time. His team is now researching what differentiates the new Covid-19 from the SARS virus. Most importantly, they want to find out how to weaken the virus so that it doesn’t cause more harm.

Switzerland also contributed to another breakthrough discovery concerning the coronavirus. The cryogenic electron microscopy technique that earned the Swiss scientist Jacques Dubochet a Nobel Prize in 2017 allowed a lab in Texas to identify a key protein of the Covid-19.

The American scientists were able to reproduce a 3D image of the protein that allows the virus to enter a cell only two months after the discovery of the new virus. With previous techniques this could’ve taken up to 10 years.

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