As we explained in our press release, the directors of the thesis “Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus: pathogenesis and protection”defended by the winner of the Syva Award – Alejandro Pascual, are two great specialists in coronaviruses, heavily involved as experts and advisors to the government in the fight against the current pandemic. Although it seems it is no longer necessary to introduce them, it would have been strange not to collect their comments and motivations for this award. So, we asked them a few questions from afar, and here are their answers.
Before starting, who are the two co-directors of the winning thesis?
|Dr. Sonia Zúñiga has been a researcher at the CNB-CSIC Coronavirus Laboratory for more than 20 years. An important part of her research work focused on studies of the pathogenesis of porcine and human coronaviruses.
|Prof. Luis Enjuanes is a renowned virologist with more than 50 years of experience, of which he has carried out his research work for more than 35 years as director of the CNB-CSIC Coronavirus Laboratory. He made important contributions on coronaviruses relevant to both human and animal health, including the study of the mechanisms of pathogenesis of these viruses and the development of vaccines.
[Syva] How did you approach this thesis, on an animal health issue?
[Sonia Zúñiga] The laboratory has been using the transmissible porcine gastroenteritis coronavirus (TGEV), which is one of the most important porcine coronaviruses in animal health, as a model for many years. When highly virulent variants of the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus emerged in the United States in 2013, we felt that we could contribute with our knowledge to the development of more effective and biosecure vaccines against PEDV. In addition, during the development of the thesis, between 2014 and 2017, four new porcine coronaviruses emerged causing severe economic losses in affected farms, which underlines the need to develop new control strategies against these emerging viruses.
[Syva] Are there any links between the research work done in this thesis and your current research projects in COVID (SARS CoV2)?
[Sonia Zúñiga] The work carried out during the thesis used some approaches and technologies in which the laboratory already had extensive experience, such as the development of reverse genetics tools for coronaviruses, or the knowledge of several coronavirus attenuation mechanisms. On the other hand, this thesis used some novel approaches never used before in coronaviruses, such as the change of codon pair bias, which could be used in the future to improve future vaccines against animal and human coronaviruses. Furthermore, the study of the molecular basis of PEDV pathogenesis provided information that increases our general understanding of the virulence mechanisms of highly pathogenic coronaviruses.
[Syva] What does the Syva Award mean to you, at a time when you are receiving so much recognition?
[Sonia Zúñiga] The Syva Award is a recognition of the teamwork carried out during the development of this thesis, which we are delighted with, given the prestige of both the award and the company that awards it in the field of animal health research.
[Syva] Could you comment on what your work might mean in the context of the ONE HEALTH concept?
[Sonia Zúñiga] Coronaviruses are a perfect example of the need to study pathogens in the context of One Health, given that human coronaviruses are the product of zoonoses. In fact, there is close monitoring for some of the swine coronaviruses cited in this thesis because of concerns about their zoonotic potential.
[Syva] What message could you draw from this thesis work and what are the next steps?
[Sonia Zúñiga] In this thesis, very relevant progress has been made both in the development of more effective vaccines against PEDV. A work that is still in progress in the laboratory, as well as on the virulence mechanisms of this coronavirus and the role of an essential protein for the virus, the nucleocapsid protein, in them. This knowledge will be applied to work on both animal and human coronaviruses.
Download here the press release and the interview with the co-directors in PDF format.
More about the Syva Award
Created by Syva Laboratories in 1997, in collaboration with the University of León, the Syva Award has been supporting young researchers defending their thesis in the field of animal health for almost 25 years. 15,000 euros are offered to the thesis that proposes significant advances and contributes in a concrete way to the development of effective solutions and treatments aimed at improving the health and welfare of animals, and more specifically, those related to Microbiology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases or Parasitic Diseases of livestock.
It is currently open to all PhD students who have completed their thesis at different universities in Spain, Portugal, and Mexico.
For more information, please visit our website https://www.syva.es/en/syvastart/syva-award-for-the-best-doctoral-thesis-in-animal-health/
Laboratorios Syva is a family pharmaceutical company founded in 1941 in León (Spain), dedicated exclusively to animal health through the development, production and marketing of pharmaceutical vaccines and specialties aimed at production animals.
The company is present in in Europe, Central and South America, North Africa and Asia with its own subsidiaries and an exclusive distribution network.
Our mission is to provide efficient solutions to continually improve animal health and value creation for the customer through the undertaking and capacity of our human team
For more informations about Syva: https://www.syva.es/en
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