Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 who end up at the ICU and require oxygen have only limited treatment options. Already obtained data suggest that these patients could benefit from treatment with granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) to manage the infection and prevent secondary (bacterial) infections. It is already known that this cytokine can enhance innate immune response of macrophages in the lungs and this helps to protect the host from influenza, but the use in COVID-19 patients is investigational. 


The primary goal is to investigate the efficacy of a version of GM-CSF that is known for its beneficial effects in viral pneumonia in the improvement of oxygenation.

Moreover, this project will also look at the short –and long-term outcome of patients treated with sargramostim.  

Facts & Figures

Start date:
End date:
COVID19 call

Thematic area

Epidemic control 

Pathogen epidemics will be controlled or new molecular insights are translated into health and prevention policies 




Martin Guilliams • Yvan Saeys 

VIB-UGent-UZ Gent 

Bart Lambrecht

UGent-UZ Gent 

Pieter Depuydt • Eva Van Braeckel 

AZ Sint-Jan Brugge

Stefaan Vandecasteele

Contribution to the project

The SARPAC consortium is comprised of members from the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research, clinicians from UGent-UZ Gent, clinicians from AZ Sint-Jan Brugge and San Matteo hospital, Pavia Italy.  

Patient inclusion will occur at three different hospitals: UZGent (Bart Lambrecht, Pieter Depuydt and Eva Van Braeckel), AZ Sint-Jan Brugge (Stefaan Vandecasteele) and San Matteo hospital, Italy. To study the effect of sargramostim on immune functioning, monocytes and dendritic cells obtained from blood samples from Belgian patients will be characterized.

In addition, cytokine and chemokine levels will also be investigated (Bart Lambrechts and Yvan Saeys) and single cell RNA will be sequenced (Bart Lambrechts and Martin Guilliams).  


The objective of the VIB-GC program is to significantly increase the societal impact of VIB, taking its scientific leadership to the next level of global visibility. Strategies between partners towards sharing of capabilities (samples, data, infrastructure) are prerequisite and motivated within the VIB GCP, aligned with the general principles of RRI and the Open Science policy of VIB in particular. 

Additionally, a close collaboration exists between the central biobank and partner institution: UZGent.

Expected impact

This forerunner trial will greatly aid in the understanding of and fight against SARS-CoV-2. One of the expected outcomes is halting disease progression from early acute hypoxic respiratory failure to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This could alleviate the pressure on ICU units during the current and future outbreaks.  

Bart Lambrecht underscores the importance of this trial: “Patients with COVID-19 who progress to acute hypoxic respiratory failure due to COVID-19 have very limited treatment options and a high mortality rate. We rapidly initiated clinical trials to investigate treatment options that provide the stimulus to restore immune homeostasis in the lung and can promote lung repair mechanisms.” 


Sofie Bekaert, Manager Translational Program