Researchers culture Coronavirus for drug testing and vaccine development

The ability to culture the virus in the lab will enable the virologists at CCMB to work towards the drug testing and vaccine development to fight COVID-19.

Created On: May 29, 2020 17:25 ISTModified On: May 29, 2020 17:25 IST
CCMB Virus Culture

The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has established stable cultures of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) from the samples of the patients. CCMB Virologists isolated infectious viruses from several isolates.

The ability to culture the virus in the lab will enable the virologists at CCMB to work towards the drug testing and vaccine development to fight COVID-19.

Dr.  Rakesh Mishra, CCMB Director stated that the researchers hope that systems such as viral culture are replicated at private companies and multiple research institutes so that they can become a useful resource in the fight against Coronavirus pandemic as well as prepare for the future.

Why to cultivate a dreadful germ?

If a large amount of virus is cultured and inactivated, it can be used as an inactivated virus vaccine. Once the inactivated virus is injected, the human immune system will start triggering the production of germ-specific antibodies. The virus can be inactivated by the chemical means or the heat. The inactivated virus will trigger the antibody response but will not infect or make us sick as they will not be able to reproduce.

Importance of virus cultures:

Virus cultures are essential for the development of antibodies or antidots. Inactivated viruses will trigger the antibody response in other mammalian hosts in addition to the humans and such hosts are currently under test for their efficiency of antibody response.

Such antibodies that will be generated in these non-human hosts can be processed, purified, and collected and they can be used as a therapeutic intervention for the patients who are suffering from the infection.

Such antibodies could trigger the antiviral response upon the injection into humans and will also have the potential of limiting the infection. Administering antibodies will not provide immunity like a vaccine does but it can be considered as anti-dotes against the virus.

These cultures might also be helpful in the process of drug screening. Potential drugs can be tested against the Coronavirus in test-tube for their efficacy.

Status of the study at CCMB:

CCMB Director, Dr. Rakesh Mishra informs that CCMB is now in a position to isolate and maintain the viral strains from different regions by using the Cero cell lines to grow Coronavirus. He adds that the researchers have been working towards producing viruses in huge quantities that can be inactivated and can be used in vaccine development and antibody production for therapeutic purposes.

CCMB has also started the testing of the potential drugs with other partners such as Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) by using this viral culture.


Coronavirus enters a human cell by binding with the ACE-2 receptor on the cell surface but not all cells have ACE-2 receptors. Human epithelial cells in the respiratory tract copiously express ACE-2 receptors that cause respiratory disease in the infected patient. However, human epithelial cells cannot be grown in the lab.

Principal Scientist at CCMB, Dr. Krishnan H Harshan, states that currently primary epithelial cells that are generated from human origins do not grow for many generations in the lab, which is basically a key to culturing viruses continuously.

He further mentions that the labs that are growing a virus, they need an ‘immortal’ cell line. They use Vero cells (kidney epithelial cell lines from green African monkeys), that express ACE-2 proteins and also carry a cell division that allows them to proliferate continuously.

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