Coronavirus Expertise at IVI

Battle corona web

Corona viruses are a risk and a danger, not only to humans, but also to numerous animal species in Switzerland.

  • Corona viruses may be zoonotic (transmissible from animals to humans).
  • Animals function as a reservoir or intermediate host.

Research into these viruses is essential for control and prevention, as at present vaccines are not available for all diseases, and thus huge economic damage may result.


Duties of the IVI

  • Preparing for corona virus outbreaks (PEDV) and zoonotic corona viruses (MERS-CoV, SARS CoV 2)
  • Development of diagnostic techniques
  • Development of vaccines
  • Development of antiviral substances


A world network to monitor coronaviruses

BLV04063 web.JPG

CoViNet - CoronaVirus Network - is an international research network for the early detection, analysis and monitoring of coronaviruses worldwide. Set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and already operating in 20 countries, it now includes the Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), as well as the Swiss Federal Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI), which is collaborating with the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern (UNIBE). This joint designation is part of a long-standing partnership between the WHO and these institutions. The members of the CoViNet met in Geneva on 26 and 27 March 2024 to define their strategic priorities and coordinate their actions.

Further information can be found in the following press release:

Newly discovered properties of Omicron contribute to its control

Battle corona web

Omicron has undergone an evolutionary leap compared to previous variants of the virus: it replicates more in the nose and less in the bronchial tubes. This is shown by a study conducted by the Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) and the University of Bern, in collaboration with the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) in Germany. These new findings contribute to a better understanding of the virus and enable progress in the development of more effective vaccines.

RocketVax AG announces new advances in the development of second-generation COVID-19 vaccines

Corona Zeichnung F. Loup

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is here to stay and will continue to mutate, so research and development of effective vaccines must be pursued as a top priority. The research group led by Professor Volker Thiel at the Institute of Virology and Immunology and the University of Bern is developing vaccines using an attenuated SARS-CoV-2 virus.

For more information, see the RocketVax media release

Improved COVID-19 vector vaccine candidate

In response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, numerous research projects have been launched to develop vaccines against this emerging pathogen. In a recent publication in the Nature portfolio journal “npj vaccines”, scientists at the Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI) and the University of Bern report on a Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV)-vectored COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Their work shows that intramuscular immunization of mice with VSV-vectored COVID-19 vaccines is inducing strong antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein only if the vector has been complemented with the VSV glycoprotein G.

Media release

Infographie  vaccin vecteur VF final mit copyright
Infografic : Using this optimized vaccine, immunized mice were fully protected against a lethal dose of SARS-CoV-2 administered by the nasal route and partially protected if challenged with the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Novel in vitro model: an alternative method to animal testing

infographie web

As part of the research on the human placenta as a target of SARS-CoV-2 (Fahmi et al, 2021), the research team of PD Dr. Marco Alves (Institute of Virology and Immunology IVI and the University of Bern) has developed an in vitro model of the human placenta. This physiological model provides a platform that paves the way for a significant replacement of in vivo approaches when evaluating pathophysiological mechanisms of virus infection during pregnancy. This new model contributes to promote the 3R Principle that aims to replace, reduce, and refine animal experimentation, and more particularly the principle of replacement.

By publishing the exact method, as developed, in the scientific journal STAR Protocols (Fahmi et al., 2022), other research teams will be able to reproduce this technique – which ultimatly may help to reduce the use of animals whenever possible.

Animal experimentation is applied to address a biological problem when no alternative method exists. The Institute of Virology and Immunology IVI is committed to the development of alternative methods.


Method of the novel in vitro model: from placental sampling to tissue culture, thereby enabling subsequent studies of the human placenta, for example after an infection from SARS-CoV-2.

corona et palcenta

The human placenta, a target of SARS-CoV-2

What happens in the human placenta after SARS-CoV-2 infection? The IVI and CHUV research teams found that SARS-CoV-2 can infect the cells of the human placenta and that the virus can proliferate and infect neighboring placental cells.

Last modification 28.03.2024

Top of page