I didn’t think I was writing anything about COVID-19 because it was too depressing, but sheesh, I’ve got goosebumps sitting here. Chinese researchers at Tsinghua University and Westlake University and also here in the U.S. at MIT have got it GOING ON right now!
I’m going to write this fast, in the spirit of what they’re doing, because I want you to know now. Here goes….
Number 1: Chinese researchers published, 3 days ago in Science, the structure of the interaction between SARS-CoV-2’s receptor binding domain (RBD), which is the key part of the protein the virus uses to attach to your cells, and ACE2, the protein on your cells it attaches to. They had to assemble ACE2 bound to another intestinal protein that it can interact with to get ACE2 to behave itself and be stable enough to nail down this picture with electron microscopy. A lot of effort there.
So they’ve zoomed in and know exactly at a molecular level what the interaction between the virus and your cells looks like. Their structure is shown above in the main picture.
That was fast! I read this three days ago and wondered how long it would take for someone to follow up….
Number 2: Here we are three days later, and MIT announces it has been using the information from the Chinese group to computationally design short peptides — little mini-proteins — that will line up just right with the way the two big proteins fit together, to disrupt that interaction.
So MIT group has a protein synthesizer that allows them to make any peptide they want in an hour and a half, so they slam out the best few candidates, and they use bio-layer interferometry to show that their peptide binds RBD with nanomolar affinity; in other words, like a frickin’ magnet.
Their candidate mimics a snippet of ACE2, so it is considered “fully human”, likely to be well-tolerated by the immune system. SBP1 sticks to coronavirus, it can’t get into your cells anymore.
Number 3: MIT News talks to MIT group and finds out that … OK, I don’t want to put words into people’s mouths, so I’ll quote instead….
"We have a lead compound that we really want to explore, because it does, in fact, interact with a viral protein in the way that we predicted it to interact, so it has a chance of inhibiting viral entry into a host cell," says Brad Pentelute, an MIT associate professor of chemistry, who is leading the research team.
"It's hard to project how long it will take to have something we can test in patients, but my aim is to have something within a matter of weeks. If it turns out to be more challenging, it may take months," he says.
Here is perhaps a more-coherent summary of all this from Medical Xpress: LINKIE
This is an approach that’s super-pragmatic, and it has a very solid chance to work. You’d have to inject or do this subcutaneously, not orally, but who cares?? They just have to make sure they get one that’s stable enough in the body so it lasts long enough to work.
We have a bunch of very smart researchers who have worked their BUTTS OFF over the last few weeks to get us here:
China, with the long-distance assist!