Novel COVID-19 vaccine and mAb development from spike protein structure: NIH is almost to control the breakthroughChief Editor
NIH Vaccine Research Center and University of Texas (UT) Austin team has uncovered the structure of the COVID-19 spike protein, which mediates viral entry into cells via membrane fusion. It provide complete insight for Novel COVID-19 vaccine and mAb development for the new coronavirus, published in Science Magazine on Wednesday (19 February 2020).
The team used cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to make their atomic-scale 3D model. The molecule the team produced – and for which they obtained a structure – represents only the extracellular portion of the spike protein, but is enough to elicit an immune response in patients.
Jason McLellan, associate professor at UT Austin who led the research, and his colleagues have spent many years studying other coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. They had already developed methods for locking coronavirus spike proteins into a shape that made them easier to analyse and could effectively turn them into candidates for vaccines. This experience gave them an advantage for studying the novel virus.
“As soon as we knew this was a coronavirus, we felt we had to jump at it,” McLellan said, “because we could be one of the first ones to get the structure of Novel COVID-19 vaccine .
We knew exactly what mutations to put into this, because we’ve already shown these mutations work for other coronaviruses.”
Two weeks after receiving a genome sequence of the virus from Chinese researchers, the team designed and produced samples of their stabilised spike protein. It took approximately 12 more days to reconstruct the 3D atomic scale map of the spike protein and submit a manuscript.
Next, McLellan’s team plans to use their molecule to attack the virus that causes COVID-19, using it as a ‘probe’ to isolate naturally produced antibodies from patients who have been infected with the virus and successfully recovered. In large enough quantities, these antibodies could help treat a coronavirus infection soon after exposure.