(TMU) — Across the world, researchers are using every tool at their disposal to beat back CoViD-19 and find a lasting solution to the devastating novel virus.
On Tuesday, Australian scientists announced that they would enlist the southern hemisphere’s largest particle accelerator in a bid to super-charge the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine.
The Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne is a world-class research facility operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) that uses powerful X-rays and infrared radiation a million times brighter than the sun to power its suite of scientific instruments, according to ANSTO’s website.
Program director Andrew Peele told AFP that the facility will use its cutting-edge technology to examine the key proteins in the virus. With the accelerator serving as a sort of microscope, scientists will be able to construct atomic-level three-dimensional maps that can then serve as models for drugs that would bind to the virus, potentially halting or treating it.
“We shine the light on the proteins and the light that scatters off them tells us where every atom in the (CoViD-19) protein molecule is.
You need to know what the protein looks like so you can design a drug to attach to it.
It’s like designing a key for a lock, you need to know the dimensions of the keyhole.”
The Melbourne team will be working with dozens of protein samples submitted from colleagues across the world that could be good fits for binding to CoViD-19 in a manner that would blunt the disease’s effects or protect from it.
Comparing the process to a jigsaw puzzle, Peele added:
“Using our technology, within five minutes you can understand why a drug does or doesn’t work in attaching to a CoViD-19 protein.”
The government funded project could help boost the time it takes to develop a vaccine, which some researchers believe could take anywhere from 18 months to several years to develop.
Around 35 private companies and academic institutions are working at a feverish pace to develop an effective vaccine or treatment for CoViD-19, which has infected over 750,000 people and upended the world economy, earning the distinction of being arguably the worst global health crisis of the 21st century.