Governance Governance & COVID-19


COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus represents a great challenge for our healthcare and economic systems. The situation and the working conditions are difficult in many places and direct patient care has the highest priority.


The Medical University partners are doing a great job in patient diagnosis, care and treatment. In addition, there are also  research activities.towards finding ways to deal with the COVID-19 disease. Biobanks can support researchers and provide key services to them, such as:

  • Efficient and high-quality storage of samples in clinical and research settings;

  • Samples from healthy individuals, to be used as control (collected 2-3 months before outbreak in each country);

  • Provide guidance and standards for targeted identification, collection and conservation of important samples.


Search the BBMRI-ERIC Directory for COVID-19 biobank sample collections ... open Directory


What partners do


MED UNI GRAZ (with Institute of Pathology and Biobank Graz)

Available resources:

  • Austria's highest biosecurity laboratory and autopsy area (BSL-3)

  • Access to patient samples

  • Isolation of pathogens from autopsy cases (BSL-3)

  • SARS-CoV2 virus culture (BSL-3)

  • Sequence characterized SARS-CoV-2 variants isolated from Austrian patients

  •  Isolated SARS-CoV-2 proteins from various virus variants

  • Isolated SARS-CoV-2 RNA quantified by digital PCR

  • Inhibitor testing

  • Support in diagnostic assay development


  • COVID-19 convalescent cohort (saliva, serum, Li-Hep plasma, EDTA plasma, Na-Citrate plasma, EDTA buffy coat, nasopharyngeal swab; questionnaire on symptoms, 5 visits)

  • COVID-19 vaccination cohor (serum, PBMCs, saliva; 5 visits; immunosuppressed and healthy patients)

  • Prospective sample collection/study cohorts



Media reports about the High Security Lab at Med Uni Graz:




MED UNI INNSBRUCK (with Biobank Innsbruck)

Available resources:

  • Samples from patients with COVID-19 collected in clinical setting from the Tyrol region (Austria COVID-19 hotspot), linked to clinical data.




MED UNI VIENNA (with MedUniWien Biobank)

Available resources:

  • Serum samples collected before the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak (for validation of serologic (IgG, IgM) tests, as those samples might be definitively free from antibodies against the virus);

  • Collections from patients with COVID-19 collected in clinical setting are currently in planning.

  • Samples from population-based cohorts collected after the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak (e.g. collected during prophylactic health examination programs, emergency department/primary care visits, etc.) that might help to estimate the actual seroprevalence of the virus in the different areas:

  • COVID-19 convalescent cohort

  • COVID-19 vaccination cohor



See more on other European Biobanks on BBMRI-ERIC >>


COVID-19 Collaboration Portal


Some guidelines for handling COVID-19 (SARS-Cov-2 containing) specimens:


  • Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Interim guideline (31 March 2020) ... open


  • FAQs about Laboratory Biosafety & SARS-CoV-2 from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

View details on specimen handling

  • WHO Laboratory biosafety guidance related to the novel coronavirus

Interim guidance (12 Feb 2020)  .. open>>


  • Dealing with COVID-19 contaminated waste

from Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technologyy ... open guideline (German)


  • Air Transport of COVID-19 Contaminated Samples

Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Dangerous goods (including alcohol based sanitizers) guidance for Operators – 07 March 2020 
... open guideance

"... Based on the experience of shipping specimens of SARS, swine flu, MERS and other similar types of viruses, WHO and national health authorities such as the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are advising health authorities to ship specimens of Covid-19 as UN 3373, Biological substance, Category B. To ensure that the global response to suspected cases of Covid-19 is as rapid as possible, it is important that specimens can be transported to laboratories for analysis without delay. ..."





Austria: Styria

  • "Steirischer Seuchenplan">> … requires autopsies to be performed in BLS-3 laboratories





Overview on COVID-19 related publications at WHO website ... open >>



Some examples:


They provide results on SARS-CoV persistence on surfaces, during disinfection routine FFPE tissue processing. Many findings are from related SARS-CoV virus studies as publications on SARS-CoV-2 are limited.


Biospecimens containing SARS-Cov-2:

Heather A. Lankes, and Hala Makhlou (2020): Biospecimen Collection During the COVID-19 Pandemic Considerations for Biobanking,

Am J Clin Pathol 2020;XX:1–0, DOI: 10.1093/AJCP/AQAA171

Key Points

  • Current data suggest the earliest cases in the COVID-19 pandemic may have been as early as October 2019.
  • Millions of biospecimens have been and will be collected from known and suspected cases, as well as asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals for various purposes.
  • Biosafety considerations intended to complement evolving CDC and WHO guidelines are presented.


Wenling Wang (11 March 2020); Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Different Types of Clinical Specimens doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3786

PCR test on specimens from COVID-19 patients with fever, dry cough, and fatigue revealed that the virus was present in the following specimens;

  • Highest rates: in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (14 positive results of 15 samples; 93%),

  • followed by sputum (72 of 104; 72%),

  • nasal swabs (5 of 8; 63%),

  • fibrobronchoscope brush biopsy (6 of 13; 46%),

  • pharyngeal swabs (126 of 398; 32%),

  • and feces (44 of 153; 29%).

  • Lower positive rates were found in and blood (3 of 307; 1%).

  • None in urine (0 of 72; 0% (


This technical note presents disinfection procedures and histotechnology processes for corona virus containing specimens and using data obtained from similar coronaviruses, e.g. severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).


  • Darnell ME et al. (2004); Inactivation of the coronavirus that induces severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS-CoV. J Virol Methods. 2004 Oct 1;121(1):85–91.

In older studies on SARS-CoV viruses, it was determined that formalin and glutaraldehyde inactivated SARS-CoV in a temperature- and time-dependent manner. Formalin fixation performed at 37°C or room temperature, "significantly decreased the infectivity of the virus on day 1, while glutaraldehyde inactivated SARS-CoV after incubations of 1–2 days. 


  • Duan et al. (2003); Stability of SARS coronavirus in human specimens and environment and its sensitivity to heating and UV irradiation. Biomed Environ Sci. 2003 Sep;16(3):246–255. 

The authors found that several coronaviruses were made non-infectious after the following exposure times and temperatures: 90 min at 56°C, 60 min at 67°C, and 30 min at 75°C. Paraffin infiltration in most histopathology laboratories uses a temperature of 60–65°C for 2 h or more. It is, therefore, appropriate to consider that the formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue block would have a low risk of coronavirus infectivity.




  • Sheridan C. et al., Fast, portable tests come online to curb coronavirus pandemic. Nat Biotechnol. 2020 Mar 23. doi: 10.1038/d41587-020-00010-2



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News News

Participants for CoV “booster” study

… searched at partner Medical University of Vienna (Nov 2021)

Covid-19 project with partner MedUni Wien Biobank involvement awarded

.. Houska Preis 2021

Long-lasting immune response to mild SARS-CoV-2 infection

Publication by partner Med Uni Graz / Biobank Graz

Tablet against COVID-19 transmission

research at universities in Graz

Corona drug tests in Graz

at BSL-3 facility at partner Med Uni Graz – April 2021

Researchers from Graz rely on nasal spray with banana protein

TV report on RTL (17 Aug 2021)

Second vaccination unnecessary for COVID-19 recovered patients

Study with Med Uni Wien Biobank involvement (ORF, August 2021)

Biosafety Requirements for Autopsies of Patients with COVID-19

Publication by partner Med Uni Graz - Jan 2021

„Corona – auf der Suche nach der Wahrheit“

TV documentary with partner Med Uni Graz (K. Zatloukal)

COVID-19 Genesene gesucht

Med Uni Graz, Biobank Graz - ab Juni 2020

COVID-19: Tests and medicine candidates developed in Vienna, Austria

an overview – Dec 2020

Tyrolean anti-coronavirus nasal spray tested at partner Med Uni Graz

ORF report, series ‘Konkret’ – 22 Nov 2020

Knowledge among pathogens

Ö1 radio interview with Prof. Zatloukal – 1 Sep 2020

SARS-CoV-2 test comparison

with involvement of MedUni Wien Biobank – Aug 2020

Guidelines & publications for SARS-Cov-2 containing biospecimens

a current summary - 1 April 2020

Austria's highest security BSL-3 lab at partner Med Uni Graz

… is ready for research - 28 March 2020

COVID-19 research at

.. report on SERVUS TV 3 Apr 2020

Biobanking in times of Covid-19

BBMRI-ERIC web discussion - 31 March 2020 & COVID 19

What partners do .... March 2020

COVID-19 research funding

... links to current fundings - March 2020