OncoGen COVID-19 vaccine project recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO)

April 8, 2020 Posted by Decode 0 thoughts on “OncoGen COVID-19 vaccine project recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO)”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized OncoGen, as the only research centre in Romania that has a protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine candidate in pre-clinical tests.

OncoGen joins reputable academic institutions and private companies known for their expertise in the field of vaccine development and high-performing biomedical research.

The full list of candidate vaccines in clinical and pre-clinical tests, as of April 4, 2020, can be found at: https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/key-action/Novel-Coronavirus_Landscape_nCoV-4april2020.pdf

OncoGen researchers propose personalized vaccinomics strategy for the novel China coronavirus

January 29, 2020 Posted by Decode 0 thoughts on “OncoGen researchers propose personalized vaccinomics strategy for the novel China coronavirus”

OncoGen researchers propose a novel approach for producing epitope-based peptide vaccine candidates for the novel China coronavirus (nCoV).

Wuhan seafood market pneumonia virus, also known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a relative of both the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) viruses. According to Nature Briefing, by January 28, the number of confirmed cases has jumped to more than 4,500 with more than 100 people dead as a result of the infection. By comparison, SARS spread globally in 2002-03, infecting 8000 and killing more than 700 people.

Traditional vaccines for viral diseases had limited success in the case of viral epidemics with high mutation rates. The approach that we used for designing potential peptide vaccine candidates takes a more personalized strategy, referred to as vaccinomics, which enables the selection of target viral proteins with low mutation rates, and the design of peptides tuned to the immune characteristics of the target populations, variable based on geographic location and ethnicity.

Based on the human MHC (human leukocyte antigen) allele variation, the peptide vaccines can be made more relevant to a community or individual. The selection of the peptides that could act as vaccines is determined by the binding of the processed viral peptide with the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and II molecules, and the relevant HLA alleles.

Our proposed candidate peptides take into consideration the most frequent HLA alleles found in the Romanian population.

Technical details of the approach used are detailed below:

We identified multiepitope peptide vaccine candidates against nCov that can potentially trigger both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell immune response. To this end, we designed 15-30 aa synthetic long peptides (SLPs), as proposed by Rabu et al. (2019), using a cathepsin-sensitive linker (LLSVGG) for linking MHC class I-restricted epitopes to MHC class II-restricted epitopes, with the MHC class II epitope located always at the N-terminal end, to stimulate both CTLs and T helper lymphocytes (together with innate immune system).

GenBank Acc. No. of coronavirus isolate Wuhan-Hu-1 used for analysis: MN908947.3 which is identical to Ref Seq NC_045512 (provisonal ref seq, under review by NCBI): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore/NC_045512.2

It is an enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded poly-adenylated RNA virus, with a genome of 29.9 kb (29903 bp), among the largest of all RNA virus genomes.

Complete genomic sequences known to date: S and M proteins important as target for nCoV vaccine; S = spike (for adhesion and fusion); M = membrane (for replication and virion exocytosis).

The tool from the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) server was used to identify potent T cell epitopes from the sequences of S and M proteins. For CD8+ T cell epitopes, the prediction method integrated MHC class I binding, proteasomal cleavage and TAP transport efficiency. Several epitopes were selected for further analysis based on high overall score and if they showed high MHC binding affinity (IC50 <50 nM). For CD4+ T cell epitopes, the highest ranking peptide based on MHC class II binding was chosen.

The list of selected T cell epitopes based on the most frequent class I and class II MHC alleles in the Romanian population (taken as an example to demonstrate a proof-of-concept) are found in our Preprints manuscript.

The candidate peptides were designed by applying to viral antigens a technology used for personalized vaccination in cancer, based on long neoantigen peptides, currently in clinical trials for cancer therapy.
Based on this model, additional peptide candidates can be identified for populations from different geographic regions of the world.
The current approach is a compromise between an industrial large-scale global vaccination strategy and an individually-targeted personalized vaccination strategy.
We will continue the validation of these candidates and of the model.

Image source: Eye of Science/SPL

Progress in personalized molecular cancer diagnostics at OncoGen

October 29, 2019 Posted by Rosecan 0 thoughts on “Progress in personalized molecular cancer diagnostics at OncoGen”

Romania-Serbia Joint Initiative against Cancer in Cross-Border Region: Improved Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Tumors” – ROSECAN

On October 25th 2019, OncoGen Research Center hosted the third press conference for the strategic project entitled “Romania-Serbia Joint Initiative against Cancer in Cross-Border Region: Improved Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Tumors – ROSECAN”, financed as part of the Interreg-IPA CBC Romania – Serbia programme.

The OncoGen Center acquired all equipment indicated in the project for personalized cancer diagnosis using genome sequencing. As of right now, the center’s acquisition procedure for the development of a software dedicated to diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients is ongoing. This software will be implemented in the Romania-Serbia cross-border region.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is a modern method for precise diagnosis and orienting treatment of cancer, used in the case of solid tumors, as well as haematological malignancies. Genome sequencing provides us with information regarding mutations that might appear in cancer cells during tumor development and proliferation. Based on a patient’s gene mutation panel, he/she becomes a unique entity, with a personalized molecular diagnosis, and benefits from a personalized treatment. All data acquired is interpreted using dedicated computer software such as Oncomine, IonReporter or VariantStudio. Following this methodology, new molecular targets present in tumors can be identified, allowing for the development of therapeutic strategies such as personalized vaccines or cell immunotherapy.

Genome sequencing involves no risk for the patients. This method uses DNA extracted from parafilm-enclosed tissue, after the histopathological diagnosis of the tumor is established.
Through the genome sequencing programme, OncoGen aligns to the diagnosis and anti-tumor therapy standards at the international level. As part of the ROSECAN project, 3 NGS machines have been purchased: the system for whole genome sequencing with an automatic sample preparation station (Ion Torrent Studio S5 + Ion Chef – ThermoFisher), the system for targeted DNA sequencing (Personal Genome Machine (PGM) – ThermoScientific) and the MiSeq sequencing system for validation (Illumina). These systems were used to analyze over 80 samples this year, as follows:

– 32 samples were analyzed using the PGM system; results identified gene mutations in 207 hotspots of 50 genes involved in tumorigenesis;
– 30 samples were analyzed using the Illumina MiSeq system, which provided us with data regarding the patient’s immune response to cancer, i.e. the amount and type of cytotoxic T lymphocyte clones, these being the cells that have the ability of destroying cancerous cells;
– 20 samples were analyzed using the Ion Torrent Studio S5 system and the automatic sample preparation station, identifying over 89 gene mutations in over 30 genes investigated from patients with solid tumors; the sample preparation station proved to be extremely useful for shortening processing and preparation time for sequencing samples, which meant that it only took 7 days from receiving the samples to releasing the results;
– circulating free DNA (cfDNA) from peripheral blood samples from 8 cancer patients was analyzed, identifying mutations in 25 oncogenes.

Currently, at the OncoGen Centre it is possible to perform approximately 100 additional genome sequencing analyses.

This successfully concluded phase brings us closer to achieving our goal of offering cancer patients a personalized diagnosis and therapeutic orientation for the purpose of treating malignant tumors.

Visit of the President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, in Timisoara

October 3, 2016 Posted by OncoGen News 0 thoughts on “Visit of the President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, in Timisoara”

In the context of the “Educated Romania” project and the designation of Timisoara as European Capital of Culture in 2021, the President of Romania, Mr Klaus Iohannis, attended a series of events held under the motto “Timisoara – Academic, Cultural and Scientific Centre”, which included the visit of Centre for Gene and Cellular Therapies in the Treatment of Cancer – OncoGen. The President has thus conveyed “a mark of encouragement for medical research, openness to researchers in the medical field, support for EU-funded research projects and also a message of encouragement for accessing new projects devoted to medical research.”

The President was welcomed by Prof. Virgil Paunescu, MD, PhD, the coordinator of OncoGen and the leadership of Pius Brinzeu Emergency County Clinical Hospital Timisoara. Mrs Diana Loreta Paun, state adviser, Department of Public Health, as well as local public officials and leading researchers in the Banat region had also attended the visit: Prefect of Timis County, Mircea Bacala, President of Timis County Council, Sorin Grindeanu, Mayor of Timisoara, Nicolae Robu, representatives in the leaderships of main universities in Timisoara and of local research centres. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the West Regional Office Timisoara within the National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, who have supported the project through which OncoGen was built and equipped.

Prof. Paunescu presented the cutting-edge laboratories and equipment of OncoGen, after which the President was invited to a discussion on Romanian medical research, when he was informed on the results of OncoGen researchers, the research strategy and the projects we are currently running. During the meeting, both young and recognised researchers from Timisoara have had the opportunity to discuss with the President on various Romanian research issues. At the end of discussions, the idea of Timisoara reaching the status of excellence pole in biotechnologies by cooperation between all research capacities on interdisciplinary themes in order to reach the critical mass and to exploit human and material potential in the area has emerged.

In his address at the end of the visit, the President stated that “higher education is not to be reasonably imagined without research” and that OncoGen proves Timisoara is a place of innovation.

Read more: http://www.presidency.ro/ro/presedinte/agenda-presedintelui/vizitarea-centrului-de-terapii-genice-si-celulare-in-tratamentul-cancerului-oncogen

The Prime Minister of Romania, Mr. Mihai Tudose visits OncoGen

December 8, 2017 Posted by OncoGen News, OncoGen News 0 thoughts on “The Prime Minister of Romania, Mr. Mihai Tudose visits OncoGen”

On the 8th of December 2017, PM Mihai Tudose visited OncoGen – The Centre for Gene and Cellular Therapies in Cancer.​

Initially, the PM booked 10 – 15 minutes for visiting the centre, but the complexity of the projects, the equipment and the advanced research opportunities conviced the PM to spend a few hours in the OncoGen Centre.​

Before leaving, the PM promised to allocate more resources for medical research in the OncoGen Centre.

“Diaspora in Scientific Research and Higher Education in Romania – Diaspora and friends” Conference

April 29, 2016 Posted by Scientific Events 0 thoughts on ““Diaspora in Scientific Research and Higher Education in Romania – Diaspora and friends” Conference”

Keeping the tradition of organizing the conference Romanian scientific Diaspora, the Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (UEFISCDI) together with West University of Timisoara (UVT), in partnership with the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research organized the de- the fourth edition of the ”Diaspora in Scientific research and Higher Education in Romania – Diaspora and friends.” The conference took place from 25 to 28 April 2016, enjoying high patronage of the President of Romania.​

This edition of the Diaspora marked the first time when this activity was organised otside the Bucharest, in university center of Timisoara, under the coordination of West University of Timisoara, hosting all the conference (plenary sessions and exploratory workshops, in areas in which there is potential Romanian and expertise, as well as in topics related to innovation and competitiveness of Romania).​

Title of the workshop:​

Perspectives in personalized medicine – from concept to clinical applications

Host institution:

Center for Genic and Cell therapies in the Treatment of Cancer – OncoGen

Coordinators :

  • Prof.univ.dr. Virgil Păunescu – University of Medicine and Pharmacy Victor Babes Timisoara
  • Prof. univ.dr. Tudor Ionel Oprea – UNM School of Medicine, Albuquerque NM USA
  • Prof. univ.dr. Carmen Panaitescu – University of Medicine and Pharmacy Victor Babes Timisoara


The transition into the new era of biomedical research allowed the implementation results in advanced fields like genomics, proteomics, immunology studies to facilitate deciphering the complex mechanisms of diseases and open up new clinical and therapeutic directions. Witnessing in recent years to a paradigm shift in medicine represented the transition from traditional medicine based on the principle of “one size fits for all” to personalized medicine or precision medicine, an innovative approach to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, which takes into account the differences between individuals in terms of both genetic and epigenetic factors whose influence is more prominent. The workshop aims to be a place for sharing ideas among professionals recognized in the country and in the Diaspora and young researchers, and prepare the ground for future collaboration, with the ultimate aim to develop strategies to personalized therapies applicable in cancer disease and regenerative medicine and to develop of joint projects in order to attract European and international financing.

Award for OncoGen Researcher at the European Society of Cardiology Meeting in Malaga

October 24, 2019 Posted by OncoGen Researchers 0 thoughts on “Award for OncoGen Researcher at the European Society of Cardiology Meeting in Malaga”

Dr. Greta Bărbulescu presented at the International Conference organized by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Working Group – Development, Anatomy and Pathology, in Malaga, Spain, 14-16 October 2019, the research project titled „Innovative biotechnology for generation of cardiac tissue using animal model” which falls under one of the main research areas of the OncoGen centre – regenerative medicine.

The project was coordinated by Prof. Univ. Dr. Virgil Păunescu, Conf. Univ. Dr. Florina Bojin, Dr. Valentin Ordodi and Asist. Univ. Dr. Oana Gavriliuc. The conference was attended by reputable researchers in regenerative medicine, specialists in molecular biology, genetics, morphopathology and cardiology. The presentation received an award at the poster session „Working Group Young Community” and Dr. Bărbulescu was also endowed with a travel award.


Spitalul Clinic Județean de Urgență “Pius Brînzeu”
bd. Liviu Rebreanu, nr. 156
300723 Timișoara, Romania

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