Coronavirus: Supercomputer identifies chemicals that could stop virus spreading and help create a vaccine

Summit found 77 chemicals that could likely stop the virus from attaching to host cells, biologists reveal

Louise Hall
Friday 20 March 2020 02:14
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The world’s fastest supercomputer has identified a number of chemicals that might stop coronavirus from infecting cells in the body, a crucial step towards a vaccine.

Summit, the world most powerful non-distributed computer system in the world, was tasked with finding compounds that are likely to stop the virus from spreading.

Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory ran thousands of simulations on the computer to analyse which drug compounds might effectively stop the virus from infecting host cells, according to a news release.

During the analysis, the supercomputer evaluated whether different compounds would be effective in binding to "spikes" on a model of the Covid-19 organism, thereby preventing the attachment of the virus to host cells, resulting in 77 matches.

The information will inform future studies and provide a framework for experiments to help find a vaccine.

However, the journey to producing an effective vaccine is far from over.

“Our results don’t mean that we have found a cure or treatment for the coronavirus,” Jeremy Smith, director of the University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory centre for molecular biophysics said in the statement.

“We are very hopeful, though, that our computational findings will both inform future studies and provide a framework that experimentalists will use to further investigate these compounds.”

The team will need to run simulations on the computer again, using an updated coronavirus model published this month.

The last calculations produced findings based on a model of the coronavirus spike based on research published in January.

New analysis may change the ranking of the chemicals likely to be of most use in the steps to finding an effective vaccine, and these results will also need to be followed by tangible experiments.

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