Academics work on computer model of COVID-19 to understand the biology of the virus

Canterbury Christ Church academics have been working with other universities around the world to generate a computer model to help improve understanding of how Covid-19 spreads.

The computer model will look at the molecular structure of the SARS-CoV2 virus spike protein of Covid-19, which allows the virus to bind on human cells found in the lung.

In collaboration with University of Texas and Professor Max Crispin, from the University of Southampton, Canterbury Christ Church University bioscience academics have been simulating missing parts and key sugar groups in the overall structure of the Cov2 spike protein. This simulation allows scientists to see how the protein and sugars move around at the atomic level and provide key details on the biology of the virus and its infection ability.

Last month the University of Austin Texas created the first 3D atomic scale map of this part of the viral spike protein that attaches to and infects human cells, which was published in the journal Science. Three-dimensional atomic scale maps enable researchers to analyse and hopefully design and make vaccines and antiviral drugs.

In further collaboration, the Christ Church team have been working with Dr Samit Kundu, from Imperial College London, to map viral mutations in the spike protein in an attempt to understand the effects of these changes at the atomic level.

Dr Kristofer Leslie, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences, and PhD student Dan Carey, have been working on the model since January 2020.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a global public health emergency and we must work together to understand this virus.

“In the scientific community it has been heartening to witness the free sharing of data and our simulations are a visual representation of what such collaborations can achieve.

“Studying the glycobiology (the study of the structure) and the dynamics of this, and other viruses, is a key element in our understanding of the biology of such pathogens.” Dr Kristofer Leslie, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences.

This work will improve the understanding of the virus as full atomic models allow for sophisticated vaccine research which will allow for the future development of novel antiviral drug therapies.

Read more at Christ Church Media News Centre.