Structural biologists have an insatiable desire to discover the structure of proteins: for insight into how proteins work, and what that means for drug discovery.
Remdesivir is the first drug to be recommended for treatment of COVID-19. Determining the structure of its target - the viral replication machinery - is an important step in understanding how it blocks viral replication, and how other antivirals could be designed.
To gain entry into human cells, the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses a “spike” on its surface, that recognizes receptors on human cells. One approach to making a vaccine is to immunise healthy patients with DNA or mRNA that codes for the spike protein.
The processed X-ray diffraction data used to produce the structures of SARS-Cov-2 proteins are freely available. This means that anyone can improve these models using open source software. Better structures mean more biological insights.
Like many scientific communities, structural biologists have responded extraordinarily quickly in the fight against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, also referred to as 2019-nCoV) and the resultant disease COVID-19, by determining the structure of many of the viral proteins.