As epidemiologists try to stay ahead of the spread of new coronavirus COVID-19, vaccine developers, like Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, are focusing on the "spike" proteins that festoon viral surfaces. Following clues in genomes is critical to disrupting the tango of infectivity as viruses meet and merge with our cells.
Vaccine developers look specifically to the molecular landscapes where viruses impinge upon our respiratory and immune system cells. Targeting COVID-19 is especially challenging, because efforts to develop a vaccine against its relative, the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), elicit only partial responses. But those steps are now serving as jumping off points for pharma.
The relationship between viruses and humans can seem like a science fiction plot. The viruses that make us sick may be little more than snippets of genetic material borrowed, long ago, from human genomes. Packaged with their own proteins, viruses return to our bodies, taking over to make more of themselves.
To continue reading, go to my DNA Science weekly blog at Public Library of Science, where this post first appeared.