How Stockholm researchers are tackling coronavirus healthcare challenges

Outward-looking companies and organizations in Stockholm are drawing on reserves of resilience and innovation to forge new solutions to the global coronavirus crisis. In the first of a new series, we hone in on three initiatives that present groundbreaking solutions to international challenges.

  • Photo: Jann Lipka/KTH
    Photo: Jann Lipka/KTH

Swedish study identifies Covid-19 antibodies with ‘100% accuracy’ 

A study at Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm shows that one-fifth of staff working at the hospital have developed antibodies against Covid-19. The research team behind the study says the results are uniquely accurate, with the blind tests carried out so far resulting in a perfect success rate. 

The team used a new serological test developed by researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and the SciLifeLab Autoimmunity Profiling facility. According to Sophie Hober, Professor of Molecular Biotechnology at KTH, the team cross-checked its own results with known results of Covid-19 tests and found a 100% overlap. 

“In the validation work carried out so far, more than 400 tests with known results have been analysed, of which around 100 have been positive and 300 negative. This analysis method has provided the correct result in each case, that is to say 100% accuracy,” says Professor Hober in a statement. 

“As it is important to know more about this we will continue to analyse known tests and thereby further validate the method,” she adds. 

She previously explained that the tests were relatively straightforward and inexpensive:  

“Since we are able to produce all the necessary proteins ourselves, a reliable, fast and efficient blood analysis has been created, suitable for large-scale screening of a large number of individuals at a low cost,” said Professor Hober.

The development of accurate serological tests measuring antibody levels is a key component in global efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. 

More than 500 employees at Danderyd Hospital were tested in just over a week. For now, the study is confined to the hospital but could later be extended to the entire population if resources permit.  

“After 527 tests we can see that 20 percent of employees have antibodies,” says Charlotte Thålin, a doctor and researcher at Danderyd Hospital who is leading the project together with Professor Hober from KTH and Peter Nilsson from SciLifeLab, a national research institution for the advancement of molecular biosciences in Sweden. 

Further analysis is expected to show how many of the affected staff members had been sick or displayed symptoms. 

Participants in the study use an app to book a time for testing and can expect to receive a result within two weeks. They use the BankID service to sign in, ensuring confidentiality.  

Regardless of the result of the initial test, employees will be tested again after three months, six months, one year and, most likely, again after two years and five years. This will enable researchers to track how long participants retain the antibodies. 

The study is financed by Region Stockholm, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Erling-Persson Family Foundation, the Christian and Jennifer Dahlberg Family, and Atlas Copco. 

Read more: SciLifeLab and the Swedish research community’s COVID-19 response 

New York hospital uses Swedish AI education program to train nurses 

Stockholm-based Sana Labs has teamed up with the Mount Sinai Health System to launch a personalized education platform for nurses working with COVID-19 patients in New York City. 

Using a curriculum developed by Karolinska Institutet, Mount Sinai and Arizona State University, Project Florence is an adaptive learning platform that measures users’ knowledge and identifies the resources needed to bring skills up to date. Once the initial assessment is complete, the platform generates a fully personalized two-day curriculum. 

Launched at Mount Sinai on April 13th, the project can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection and is being made available for free to hospitals around the world.

“Project Florence is designed to deliver personalized learning at scale and we look forward to making it available to every hospital in need of upskilling nurses for intensive care of critical COVID-19 patients,” said Joel Hellermark, Founder and CEO of Sana Labs, in a statement. 

“We’re honored to be working with the leading health care systems to personalize learning for health care workers who are sacrificing so much to save others.”

Headquartered in Stockholm, Sana Labs is the global leader in AI for learning. 

Three coronavirus projects led by Karolinska Institutet selected for EU funding

All three coronavirus projects submitted by Stockholm researchers at Karolinska Institutet (KI) to the European Commission are among 17 projects to have qualified for special EU funding. 

The KI projects focus on vaccine research, immunotherapy and neutralizing antibodies and will now share in a €47.5 million research fund. 

KI President Ole Petter Ottersen said the EU decision was “very important as it will give us greater opportunities to help solve the ongoing crisis.” 

He added: “It also sends a clear signal about the international confidence in the quality of KI’s research, and is in line with KI’s long-term strategic plan, Strategy 2030, which emphasizes the importance of groundbreaking research in collaboration with other parties.” 

The European Commission received 91 applications after it put out an emergency funding call for projects that will advance understanding of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The projects in short: 

  • OpenCorona: Development of a vaccine against the coronavirus. First human trials expected to take place at Karolinska University Hospital in 2021.
  • Antibody Therapy Against Coronavirus: Development of passive immunotherapy against SARS-CoV-2 using donated blood samples from recovered COVID-19 patients.
  • CoroNAb: Production of ‘neutralizing antibodies’ that block the ability of the virus to infect cells.

Read more about the projects on the KI website