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Overview of initiatives of Czech universities and research institutions in tackling the COVID-19

The special issue of the ad-hoc CZELO Bulletin in 2020 presents the overview of initiatives of Czech universities and research institutions in tackling the COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 is spreading across the world, research institutions and universities are offering tools, equipment, time, and expertise to help alleviate the suffering caused by COVID-19. The Czech Republic is not an exception. The pandemic has without a doubt increased the demand for scientific facts and also science itself. 
It is impossible to summarise in just a few pages all the effort that Czech researchers are conducting, and therefore, the aim of this article is to provide a brief overview of the most important initiatives. There are many unnamed scientific heroes and heroines in the R&I field that are fighting against COVID-19.

The Czech researchers have been offering solutions to the rising demand for health protection equipment, by sharing their know-how for production of emergency mechanical lung ventilators and manufacturing of PPE such as face shields and respiratory masks since the beginning of the coronacrisis. 

The institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) also assist with testing of samples for the novel coronavirus and analyse materials for the production of breathing masks and respirators. They also participate in the international project of the development of a new test for diagnosing the COVID-19 disease. However, various institutes of the CAS also try to help by other means. For example, the Global Change Research Institute of CAS has offered a Cessna aeroplane to be used by the Czech government for the distribution of necessary medical material. The economists of the IDEA think tank of the Economics Institute of CAS have launched a project to provide expert ideas and recommendations to mitigate the negative economic effects of the pandemic. More…

Testing also involves scientific volunteers at the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) Masaryk University, the Charles University – BIOCEV, the Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, and the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine of Palacký University Olomouc. They all have set up laboratories and at the same time are searching for quicker detection, better kits and more precise results. 

However, the testing part is only a drop in the ocean of all the things research institutes and universities are doing. Czech, as well as international researchers, who are involved in research related to the COVID-19 disease, can take advantage of the modern research facilities specialising in structural biology. CEITEC Masaryk University, and BIOCEV – the shared centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University – are both offering their infrastructures free of charge. More…  Moreover, the IT4Innovations, national supercomputing center at VSB - Technical University Ostrava have offered prefferential access to computational resources to COVID-19 related projects. More...

Disinfectants were among the first specific contributions with which researchers responded to the coronacrisis. Many universities and research institutes have begun to produce them as a response to the general shortage. Anti-COVID disinfectant is blended by the Faculty of Chemistry of the Brno University of Technology according to a World Health Organization recipe. Disinfectants are also produced at Tomas Bata University in ZlínPalacký University Olomouc or University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague.

When it comes to the production of PPE, a nationwide initiative focused on the production of face shields, launched by Prusa Research, joins efforts of large universities, private laboratories and many others. These are of course just a few examples. The Palacký University UPrint 3D and its Faculty of Science researchers have already produced and distributed the first hundreds of shields that reduce the risk of transmitting infection. Face shields are also printed by CEITEC Brno University of Technology together with a digital workshop FabLab, by Department of Furniture of the Mendel University in Brno and by Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of VSB - Technical University of Ostrava.  More…

In addition, the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics CTU (CIIRC CTU) in Prague developed its own prototype of advanced respirators which can be 3D printed, and published free downloadable data for its production. More… These are currently also being printed by the Brno Technical University. 

Simpler face masks intended for the protection of others and also printable at the 3D printers, and these are being developed at the Faculty of Engineering of the Czech University of Life Sciences. 

On the top of the production itself, researchers from the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, based on the available scientific sources, have selected and experimentally verified the most appropriate method for effectively sterilizing and reusing respirators.  

Nanomaterials, which are able to capture the coronavirus, are being developed by the Center of Polymer Systems of Tomas Bata University in Zlín together with the Zlín company SPUR a.s. The new material meets the standards for the production of medical drapes, which is currently in high demand. More… Filters of nanomaterials that people can put into cloth face masks with a pocket are also produced at the Technical University in Liberec.

Regarding the production of emergency mechanical lung ventilators, the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Czech Technical University, created a unique solution of lung ventilation designed for the treatment of COVID-19 called CoroVent, which is now being produced. CoroVent´s principles and concept are temporarily open source, which has already attracted interest of the UN and other partners. More…

Last but not least, when talking about Czech researchers, it is also essential to mention the Czech biochemist Tomáš Cihlář, vice president at Gilead Sciences in the U.S.A., who is one of the scientists behind the development of an experimental drug Remdesivir, originally developed to fight the Ebola virus, which is currently being trialled for the treatment of COVID-19. The legacy of prof Antonín Holý is carried further. More… 


Denisa Fančová
Head of Czech Liaison Office for Research, Development and Innovation (CZELO) in Brussels


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