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In Society, for Society —AIST's activities against COVID-19 —

For AIST, it is our public mission to overcome this global crisis and to continue striving to bring society back to normal as soon as possible, under the slogan, “in Society, for Society.”

Moreover, we believe it is equally important to be a support in this altered reality, where daily lives are still being led.

To achieve these missions, AIST will continue to conduct cutting-edge R&D, collaborate with other research institutions, and disseminate information useful for “staying at home,” in order to prevent the spread of infection.

Research activities for tackling COVID-19

AIST is performing the following research activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will post updates whenever new activities are being conducted.

Free access to AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) for COVID-19 research

As part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections, AIST will provide free access to its AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI), the world's top-level, large-scale, open AI computing infrastructure, for the “treatment,” “prevention,” “drug discovery,” and “analysis and predictions” relating to the spread of infections. Since mid-April, the high-performance computing infrastructure (HPCI) office has opened its doors to COVID-19 research in need of supercomputer resources. The service is available to those who apply and are approved.

AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI)

More information:https://abci.ai/

International comparison of COVID-19 RNA measurement capabilities

Standardization of detection methods is required in order to improve the reliability of PCR kits and testing protocols for confirming COVID-19 infections. For this purpose, AIST and national metrology institutes of Europe, the United States, and Asia are currently planning an international comparison study of measurement capabilities for COVID-19 RNA. Participation in the comparison study makes it possible to guarantee international comparability and reliability of measurement capabilities of PCR tests in Japan, as well as to develop standard reagents and reliable detection methods for testing.

An image of the virus and RNA

Repositioning of approved drugs as candidates of COVID-19 therapeutic agents

Since the safety of approved drugs has been proven, candidate drugs repositioned from those drugs can be smoothly introduced to clinical trials. In collaboration with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, AIST contributed to the discovery of two drugs: nelfinavir, an anti-AIDS virus (HIV) drug, and cepharanthin, a leukopenia drug by using in silico screening for narrowing down the candidates of COVID-19 therapeutic agents and simulation for understanding molecular mechanisms. Computer analyses indicated that jointly administering the two drugs, each with different working mechanisms, could efficiently eliminate the novel coronavirus.

A molecular model in which nelfinavir binds to the active site of a main protease involved in the viral growth, inhibiting its enzymatic activity

Development and social implementation of a rapid PCR diagnostic device

AIST has developed a novel PCR technology (micro-channel PCR chip) for a rapid and compact PCR detection device. This novel technology is used in “GeneSoC®,” a small ultra-high-speed gene quantification device that can identify bacteria and viruses in only 5 to 15 minutes. We will continue our efforts to develop a multiplex PCR testing reagent to enable simultaneous detection of multiple genes in one reaction solution, which will not only minimize the possibility of false negatives caused by mutations, but also improve test efficiency. We will also promote the development of a high-speed DNA sequencing system that will reliably track any mutations.

Preparation of samples prior to PCR

Development of a reliable and rapid diagnostic technology for COVID-19

For emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the development and improvement of rapid diagnostic technology is a top priority in preventing the spread of infection and enabling early diagnosis and treatment. To this end, AIST is aiming toward the development of a reliable rapid PCR diagnostic system, and the social implementation of a simple and rapid antibody test using ELISA. This research project has been selected as an urgent task which calls for immediate action under the FY 2020 supplementary budget “Development of technologies for infectious diseases including viruses.”

A low-cost, rapid and sensitive chip for ELISA

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