Diamond Light Source

Scientists across the world are using the Diamond Light Source to understand the structure of the COVID-19 virus to identify new therapeutic targets

Diamond Light Source (Diamond) represents the UK’s national synchrotron light source. 

Through a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust, the synchrotron harnesses the power of electrons to produce an intense beam of light that can be used across a variety of applications, including the examination of engineering components, archaeological artefacts and proteins.

Diamond is supporting global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by providing international and UK-based scientists with access to high-resolution synchrotron and electron-based imaging techniques, which are being used to study SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. So far, scientists at the facility have successfully determined the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease in high-resolution, an area of the virus that could be targeted by new drug compounds.

This has been further supported by Diamond’s specialist drug discovery facility – XChem, which is being used to study the interactions between the key components of the virus and ‘chemical fragments’, collections of small molecules that are screened in the early phases of drug discovery research. By rapidly analysing lots of different fragments, scientists hope to better identify and develop new drugs to treat the disease.

All experimental data has been made openly available in real-time to encourage worldwide collaboration and rapid progress. This is demonstrated through the non-profit initiative - COVID Moonshot, which crowdsources molecule designs from medicinal chemists across the world and converts them into physical compounds and assays at the XChem facility. So far, over 500 compounds have been submitted and screened at the facility, with over 60 designs having been shown to effectively target a key protein associated with COVID-19.

In combination, these tools and datasets provide scientists with essential information to better understand the virus, as well as identify potential drug targets and therapies to treat COVID-19.

To find out more, visit https://www.diamond.ac.uk/covid-19/for-scientists/Main-protease-structure-and-XChem.html

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