University in the U.S. heartland joins coronavirus research efforts

World Today

University in the U.S. heartland joins coronavirus research effortsUniversity in the U.S. heartland joins coronavirus research efforts

As the coronavirus virus continues to spread, scientists around the world are continuing their research in the hope they can put a stop to it. One university that has joined that effort is Purdue University in the U.S. state of Indiana.  Professor Andrew Mesecar is head of the department of Biochemistry.  “We don’t have to work at this level with the affected virus. We can work with a piece of it which is just completely safe.” 


Mesecar and his team are examining the atomic structure of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. And comparing it to the SARS virus that first surfaced in China in 2002, that spread to 37 countries…resulting in more than 750 deaths. “When you pull up those gene sequences, from the two, they are over 95% identical. Which suggests their structures are also going to be 95% identical,” says Mesecar.
Scientists at Purdue University made a key breakthrough in research of the Zika virus. They were the first to determine its molecular structure.  The focus now is on scoring a similar breakthrough with the new coronavirus. The team is mapping out the proteins of the virus with the aim of finding a weak spot where medication can intervene and stop the virus from replicating in humans. “These coronaviruses need these enzymes in order to replicate and keep the virus alive. So what we are trying to do is develop drug molecules that would target those enzymes, knock out their activity so that when they knock out that activity, the virus will no longer replicate,” says Mesecar. 
Neighboring state Illinois was the first in the United States to have a confirmed case of person to person transmission of the virus. Despite the continuing spread of the virus, Mesecar has been impressed with China’s response to the health crisis.  “It is just unfathomable in the history of humanity of a response like this. The United States has not seen something like this. We are all going to learn as to how China is responding and building hospitals in a matter of weeks and trying to contain it.” 
One development to occur since the coronavirus began is the public sharing of information by scientists… allowing researchers around the world to make a contribution and move the process forward more quickly to find a cure.