University of Virginia Health System

Scientists Urge Swift Action to Prepare for Next Pandemic

International Team Outlines Strategy to Facilitate Creation of Medications, Vaccines, Treatments

Newswise — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., March 29, 2021 – An international team of researchers led by a University of Virginia School of Medicine professor is warning that scientists must better prepare for the next pandemic – and has developed a plan to do just that. 

Noting the “avalanche” of scientific data generated in response to COVID-19, UVA’s Wladek Minor, PhD, and colleagues are calling for the creation of an “advanced information system” (AIS) to help scientists integrate, monitor and evaluate the vast amounts of data that will be produced as researchers reveal the molecular architecture of the next pathogen posing a big biological threat. This information on the shape, structure and function of a pathogen is essential to the development of medications, vaccines and treatments. For example, the COVID-19 vaccines now available target the “spike” protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Their heavily cited online resource for COVID-19 (https://covid-19.bioreproducibility.org/demonstrates the usefulness of their approach and can be used as a foundation for the new research strategy, they say. The site includes carefully validated 3-D structural models of numerous proteins related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including many potential drug targets. 

“Structural models and other experimental results produced by various laboratories must follow a standard evaluation procedure to ensure that they are accurate and conform to accepted scientific standards,” said Minor, Harrison Distinguished Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at UVa. “Standardized validation is important for all areas of biomedical sciences, especially for structural models, which are often used as a starting point in subsequent research, such as computer-guided drug docking studies and data mining. Even seemingly insignificant errors can lead such research astray.” 

Battling a Pandemic

One important role of AIS would be to identify structures that can be refined and improved, the researchers say. They were happy to note that inspection of the molecular blueprints produced for components of COVID-19 and deposited in the Protein Data Bank online database suggests that most were very good. Less than 1% needed significant reinterpretation and less than 10% could be optimized by moderate revisions. 

Still, good buildings require good blueprints. The same is true with vaccines and disease treatments. It’s critical, the researchers say, that the structural and other data for pathogens are as accurate as possible, and that scientists from various fields are speaking the same language when discussing and using them. The proposed AIS would help ensure conformity across disciplines. 

“Almost 100,000 COVID-19-related papers have been published and over a thousand models of macromolecules encoded by SARS-CoV-2 have been experimentally determined in about a year. No single human can possibly digest this volume of information,” Minor said. “We believe that the most promising solution to information overload and the lack of effective information retrieval is the creation of an advanced information system that is capable of harvesting results from all relevant resources and presenting the information in instructive ways that promote understanding and knowledge.” 

The researchers acknowledge that implementing their proposal would be a major undertaking. Other resources that sought to offer similar benefits on a smaller scale have already come and gone. That’s why it’s so important, the scientists say, that we act now. “Creating an AIS will undoubtedly require the collaboration of many scientists who are experts in their respective fields, but it seems to be the only way to prepare biomedical science for the next pandemic,” the researchers write in a new scientific paper outlining their proposal. 

“In the history of humanity, the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively mild by comparison with the bubonic plague (Black Death) that killed a hundred times more people,” the researchers conclude. “We might not be so lucky next time.” 

New Approach Outlined

The researchers – from UVA, the National Cancer Institute, Poland and Austria ­– have detailed their plan in an article in the scientific journal IUCrJ. The article is featured on the journal cover. The resarch team consists of Marek Grabowski, Joanna M. Macnar, Marcin Cymborowski, David R. Cooper, Ivan G. Shabalin, Miroslaw Gilski, Dariusz Brzezinski, Marcin Kowiel, Zbigniew Dauter, Bernhard Rupp, Alexander Wlodawer, Mariusz Jaskolski and Minor.

In their paper, the researchers gratefully acknowledged the financial support of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, grant R01-GM132595; the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, grant PN/BEK/2018/1/00058/U/00001; the Polish National Science Center, grant 2020/01/0/NZ1/00134; the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Cancer Institute, Center for Cancer Research; FWF (Austrian Science Foundation), grant P 32821; and the Polish National Science Centre, grant 2018/29/B/ST6/01989.

Minor and his longtime collaborator Zbyszek Otwinowski, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, were recently awarded the Tadeusz Sendzimir Applied Sciences Award by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America for their efforts to develop and promote software for biomedical applications in the structural biology field.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

 

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 5440
Released: 19-Apr-2021 5:20 PM EDT
Patients who are obese or overweight are at risk for a more severe course of COVID-19
Radboud University

COVID-19 patients who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop a more severe infection than patients of healthy weight, and they require oxygen and invasive mechanical ventilation more often.

Released: 19-Apr-2021 5:05 PM EDT
Solving Laboratory Professional Burnout: How Personality Traits Can Better Recruit and Retain
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Rutgers study shows how understanding personality types in hiring aids in recruiting and retaining of laboratory personnel

Released: 19-Apr-2021 3:15 PM EDT
How much time and money do commuters save working from home?
University of Sydney

Commuters could save an average of 90 hours (or two-and-a-half working weeks) each year if work from home continues at current rates, according to preliminary findings of a University of Sydney survey.

Released: 19-Apr-2021 2:35 PM EDT
Updated advice for safe COVID-19 vaccination in people with high-risk allergy histories
Massachusetts General Hospital

At the end of 2020, experts led by allergists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) examined all information related to possible allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Newswise: Delaying cardiovascular surgeries due to COVID-19 has serious psychological effects on patients, study finds
Released: 19-Apr-2021 2:05 PM EDT
Delaying cardiovascular surgeries due to COVID-19 has serious psychological effects on patients, study finds
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Postponing procedures during the pandemic sparked anxiety and fear among patients, with many concerned about dying of their conditions before getting surgery.

Newswise: New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media
Released: 19-Apr-2021 1:30 PM EDT
New AI tool tracks evolution of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media
Los Alamos National Laboratory

A new machine-learning program accurately identifies COVID-19-related conspiracy theories on social media and models how they evolved over time—a tool that could someday help public health officials combat misinformation online.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 23-Apr-2021 10:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 19-Apr-2021 10:05 AM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 23-Apr-2021 10:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Newswise: Pandemic Eviction Bans Found to Protect Entire Communities from COVID-19 Spread
Released: 19-Apr-2021 9:30 AM EDT
Pandemic Eviction Bans Found to Protect Entire Communities from COVID-19 Spread
Johns Hopkins Medicine

A new study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania uses computer modeling to suggest that eviction bans authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the infection rate and not only protected those who would have lost their housing but also entire communities from the spread of infections.

Newswise: A dad’s-eye view of pregnancy during the pandemic
Released: 19-Apr-2021 8:45 AM EDT
A dad’s-eye view of pregnancy during the pandemic
University of South Australia

Becoming a parent is a major life transition at any time but in a pandemic it takes on a whole other experience as expectant mums and dads navigate the current health and social restrictions to protect the safety of their unborn child.


Showing results

110 of 5440

close
3.25484