The world's first Centre for the Study of Autoimmune Diseases and the Effects of the New Coronavirus Disease opens at the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies at St Petersburg University. Specialists at the Professor Shoenfeld Centre will be Russian and Israeli scientists and doctors.

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‘The pandemic has posed difficult questions for us, and some of the answers will, I have no doubt, be found at the Professor Schoenfeld Centre. We are confident that the results of the research that is carried out at the Laboratory of the Mosaic of Autoimmunity at St Petersburg University will be put into practice here. We will therefore be able to solve the problem of reducing the risk of post-pandemic complications,’ Elena Chernova, Acting Rector of St Petersburg University and Senior Vice-Rector of St Petersburg University, said at the opening ceremony.

Autoimmune diseases affect 20% of the world's population, but now a new factor has emerged – COVID-19, said Yehuda Shoenfeld, Head of the Laboratory of the Mosaic of Autoimmunity at St Petersburg University and founder and Head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, President of Ariel University and a Member of Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities of Israel, addressing the opening ceremony of the scientific and clinical centre.

We have found that COVID-19 contributes to at least 18 autoimmune diseases. Another factor in their occurrence is a condition following the coronavirus disease, long Covid, which is also autoimmune.

Yehuda Shoenfeld, Professor at St Petersburg University

Long Covid is characterised by persistent fatigue, impaired concentration and memory, headaches, muscle pain, shallow breathing, and insomnia. In 20% of patients, these symptoms persist for three months or more.

The centre will bring together scientists and doctors from: St Petersburg University (the Pirogov Clinic of High Medical Technologies at the University, the Faculty of Medicine, the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, and the Laboratory of the Mosaic of Autoimmunity); the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases in Tel Aviv University; and Ariel University.

Earlier, St Petersburg University signed an agreement with Technische Universität Dresden (Germany) for joint research on Post-Covid-19 syndrome.

The meeting of St Petersburg and Israeli colleagues also included the signing of a Memorandum of understanding between St Petersburg University and Ariel University. The document was signed by: Elena Chernova, Acting Rector of St Petersburg University and Senior Vice-Rector of the University; and Yehuda Schoenfeld, President of Ariel University. The aim of the agreement is among other things cooperation between the university clinics, as well as joint research on autoimmune diseases and the implementation of projects related to all fields of science developed by the partner universities within the framework of the concept of sustainable development. The memorandum, according to Elena Chernova, will allow greater interaction between students and scientists from the universities. It will also enable mutual consultations between Israeli and Russian doctors to treat patients at the university clinics.

Professor Albert Pinhasov, Rector of Ariel University addressed the audience in Russian. He noted that the range of areas for university cooperation is wide (through student academic exchange programmes, research internships and joint research projects, publications, and grants). ‘I am delighted that St Petersburg University will become part of the Ariel University community. St Petersburg University is a university with a great history and a centuries-old academic and scientific tradition. We are honoured to be part of that history,’ he said.