Press Release: Cats and llamas could offer a path to coronavirus therapies. Interview with Claudio Masciovecchio, Director of the Focus Project Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste.

Computation and experimentation also yield possible therapeutic compounds for COVID-19.

Figure: THE SPIKE PROTEIN OF THE SARS-COV-2 VIRUS (gray) is shown with three small antibodies (pink) attached to its receptor binding domains. The spike attaches at the left to the viral membrane (not shown). DIAMOND LIGHT SOURCE

As the world anxiously awaits development of one or more vaccines to tame the SARS-CoV-2 virus, other research continues at a feverish pace to find effective treatments for the disease it causes, COVID-19. That work, in which physicists and chemists are deeply involved, has made significant strides in the past several months and has turned up a few surprises.
The European Commission is funding an 18- institution coronavirus- fighting consortium known as Exscalate4CoV that includes supercomputing centers at Cineca, Italy’s supercomputing consortium; the Barcelona Spercomputing Center; and Germany’s Julich Research Center. The Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics contributes 3D models of the viral proteins, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology provides a drug- repurposing library of 6000 compounds and biochemical assays. Screenings of crystallized viral proteins in combination with newly discovered molecules are performed at Italy’s Elettra Synchrotron Trieste, KU Leuven in Belgium, and Poland  International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.
The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, launched in March, brings together 7 Department of Energy national labs with 8 NSF-funded supercomputing centers, NASA, 11 hightech industry giants, more than a dozen US universities, and institutions from Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Since chloroquine was first proposed as a potential treatment for COVID-19, multiple clinical studies have shown the drug and its derivates to be ineffective and to have harmful side effects. But Claudio Masciovecchio, head of scientific programs at the FERMI free- electron laser (FEL) at Elettra, says he’s not ready to write off chloroquine just yet. One recent study showed it to interfere with the spike–ACE2 interaction. He says the FERMI FEL’s ability to probe the lowfrequency vibrations that are responsible for the biochemical activity of a molecule or drug may settle the issue. Researchers from the University of Bologna, ETH Lausanne, and the University of California, Irvine, are collaborating with FERMI scientists to gain further insight to the interaction. Complementary experiments are to take place this month on Elettra’s synchrotron.

Physics Today dd 01.09.2020: 'Cats and Ilamas could offer a path to coronavirus therapies'. pdf

Last Updated on Friday, 02 October 2020 09:59