HKU research team successfully isolates Omicron virus strain to help develop inactivated whole-cell vaccines

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30th November 2021 – (Hong Kong) The COVID-19 variant Omicron is currently spreading fast around the world. The Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong announced today (30th) that it may become the first research team in Asia to successfully isolate the virus strain from clinical specimens. The results will help to develop and produce inactivated whole-cell vaccines.

The research team said that the Omicron virus strain is being further isolated and cultured to obtain a larger number of variant viruses for follow-up experiments. The cultured virus will be used in animal models to evaluate its transmission, immune escape and pathogenicity. The team is also actively exploring various possibilities for cooperative development and production of inactivated whole-cell vaccines.

An imported case involving Omicron was discovered for the first time in Hong Kong on the 25th of this month. Four days later, the Hong Kong University team has made progress to isolate and cultivate Omicron virus variants. Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, who is in charge of the research, said that isolating the mutant virus is the first step in launching emergency research on the mutant virus. At present, the team is further separating and conducting plaque purification of the variant virus, creating conditions for the development and production of inactivated whole-cell vaccines.

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