An ESRF COVID-19 research project funded by ANR


An ESRF COVID-19-related research project is among the 86 projects selected by the ANR, the French project-based funding agency for research, to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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On January 30th, 2020, the WHO declared the recent outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a public health emergency of international concern. The current COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, which is more infectious than the 2003 SARS-CoV. Research enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the fundamental pathogenesis and infection of SARS-CoV2 is therefore urgent, as are efforts to develop therapeutic agents to combat the spread of COVID-19, particularly as existing antiviral drugs are of limited efficiency. 

In this view, the ANR, the project-based funding agency in France, launched, on 6 March 2020, a Flash COVID-19 call to mobilize the scientific communities out of 4 priorities identified by the WHO: epidemiological and translational studies; physiopathogenesis of the illness; infection prevention and control measures in healthcare settings; ethics – approaches to the response from the humanities and social sciences.

A total of 86 research projects have been selected for a total funding of 14,5M€ among which, the ESRF COVID-19 project called « COVNSP3 ».

This project targets the non-structural polyprotein 3 (Nsp3) of SARS-CoV2 as an important therapeutic target. Nsp3 is a polyprotein precursor on which 15 individual proteins crucial to the function and life cycle of the virus are linked together before auto-cleavage of the chain to produce individual proteins. The project aims at structural studies of Nsp3 polyprotein precursor of SARS-CoV2 by an integrated, interdisciplinary, and multi-level approach, wherein high-end molecular biology, biochemical and structural methods will be combined with sophisticated cryo-EM approaches, thereby integrating complementary trends in modern molecular biology.

Based on the use of the ESRF CryoEM platform, this project will be carried out in collaboration with the IBS (Institut de Biologie structurale), member of the EPN Science Campus.

Top image: The Cryo electron microscope at the ESRF.