Like so many of our colleagues worldwide, Molecular Biophysics Stockholm (MBS) has been engaged in various efforts to navigate and combat the novel coronavirus. Although the group’s past research rarely intersected with virology or clinical work, and none of us are are experts in the field, we hope to help where we can.
Among others, members of the Membrane-Protein Modeling and GROMACS Development teams have joined the Folding@home consortium to apply the power of distributed computing to understanding SARS-CoV-2 membrane proteins. Listen to Professor Erik Lindahl speak about this work on Sveriges Radio (Swedish), read about it on Videnskab.dk (Danish)—or contribute your own compute time to active projects managed by Associate Professor Lucie Delemotte!
Members of the GROMACS team and BioExcel Centre also contribute to Exscalate4CoV, a consortium awarded €3 million by the European Commission for research on COVID-19 vaccines, treatment, and diagnostics. Key tasks at MBS include deployment of molecular-dynamics code and free-energy calculations for coronavirus protein simulations and drug-candidate scoring. For an overview of relevant targets, data repositories, and community collaborations, watch Lindahl’s presentation to the Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire (English, 4:13–36:04).
On the clinical side, members of the Ligand-Gated Ion Channels (LGICs) team have worked with fellow chemists at Stockholm University to alleviate urgent needs for medical supplies, helping coordinate donations of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment from SciLifeLab to local hospitals. With reagents contributed by academic groups, the Museum of Natural History, and companies including GE Health, Petrolia, Runa and Absolut Vodka, we also assisted in the department’s production and distribution of over 20,000 liters of hand sanitizer to medical and care facilities. Read more in recent coverage by the university (English) and national (Swedish) media.
MBS is also involved in an accelerated grant by the KAW Foundation to iLACO-Sweden, a multi-institution project led by Professor Vicent Pelechano (Karolinska Institute) to develop a rapid, low-cost color-based test for COVID-19 infection. The method was recently covered on Sveriges Television, including an interview with LGICs team-lead Reba Howard (Swedish, some English audio).
We are deeply grateful for the dedication and compassion of all MBS members, who continue to find creative paths to productivity even at a distance. Many have managed unprecedented disruptions to academic, research, and development work, including DIS students Jojo Scott and Phaedra Robinson, whose time abroad was truncated months early by US travel restrictions. We so look forward to collaborating again at higher density on the other side of this pandemic.