With stories about coronavirus dominating the news, it is encouraging to hear that crystallographers around the world are making strong contributions to the efforts to find a vaccine and advance therapeutics.
Structure of the coronavirus spike protein
At the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, USA, Jason McLellan has used cryo-EM to determine the structure of the coronavirus spike protein. After Chinese scientists released the sequence of the new coronavirus, Dr McLellan and his team engineered a variant of the spike protein to increase its stability and expression for study, and ordered the nucleic acid to be synthesized for the modified spike protein.
Within 25 days of receiving the engineered nucleic acid, they cloned the gene, expressed the protein, isolated it, used the UT Austin’s cryo-EM facility to determine the structure and submitted their paper to Science, where it has already been published. IUCr Immediate Past President, Marvin Hackert, used the coordinates from Dr McLellan to produce a 3D printed model, which was shown by Dr McLellan on US national news.
Very fresh results in a meeting
Meanwhile, the recent Joint Polish–German Crystallographic Meeting in Wroclaw, Poland, started with a Plenary Lecture by Rolf Hilgenfeld (University of Lübeck, Germany) entitled “From SARS to MERS and the 2020 Wuhan pneumonia virus – How X-ray crystallography can help fight emerging viruses.” Results were presented that had only been obtained that day.
More on these stories will be published in the forthcoming issue of the IUCr Newsletter.
Policies on health emergencies
IUCr Journals support the policies outlined in the 2016 joint statement on data sharing in public health emergencies, and will ensure that any research findings of relevance are rapidly shared with the World Health Organization. It is recommended that diffraction data related to coronavirus should be deposited as requested in the IUCrJ paper “Findable Accessible Interoperable Re-usable (FAIR) diffraction data are coming to protein crystallography” by J. R. Helliwell, W. Minor, M. S. Weiss, E. F. Garman, R. J. Read, J. Newman, M. J. van Raaij, J. Hajdu and E. N. Baker.
As a resource for coronavirus and COVID-19 research, a virtual issue containing all of the articles and abstracts on coronaviruses published in IUCr journals is available here. Leading this free-to-read collection is a recent Editorial by Ted Baker, written “to applaud the energy and skill of the [SARS-CoV-2] researchers, and their public spirit in sharing their results.”
Bragg Prize awardees
Read what the winners of the 2020 W. H. and W. L. Bragg Prize for outstanding early-career crystallographers are doing to help combat COVID-19 in interviews with James Fraser and Jean-Philippe Julien.
More informations on this topic can be read here.