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Sino-European Project on SARS Diagnostics and Antivirals

EC contribution
: € 1 887 608
: 48 months
Starting date
: 01/05/2004
Project Number
: SP22-CT-2004-003831


The Sino-European Project on SARS Diagnostics and Antivirals (SEPSDA) brought together four European and four Chinese research groups working on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus. The consortium determined the three-dimensional structures of many replicase proteins of the virus by X-ray crystallography. Based on these target structures, it discovered about 50 non-toxic chemical compounds with activity against the virus; five of these were developed into lead compounds and are ready for preclinical and clinical testing in case of a new outbreak of SARS or another Coronavirus-caused epidemic. Also, SEPSDA has significantly improved the existing diagnostics for SARS and introduced differential diagnostics allowing the rapid and reliable distinction between the disease and other forms of viral pneumonia.


When SARS emerged in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Canada in 2003, little was known about the molecular biology of Coronaviruses. In particular, reliable diagnosis was not available (no rapid differential diagnostics) and no therapy existed.


SEPSDA was set up to achieve breakthroughs in both the development of better diagnostics of SARS and structure-based discovery of smallmolecule compounds with anti-SARS activity. In order to achieve the latter goal, the threedimensional structures of many components of the Coronavirus replicase complex had to be determined.

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