Gordon Joyce, Ph.D., who is an HJF employee and Chief of Structural Biology in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch (EIDB) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), has been working diligently to advance research efforts to prevent and treat COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, he produced the most detailed atomic level view of the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain—the part of the virus that binds to the lungs.
“This detailed understanding of the structure has been critical to vaccine discovery and small molecule development efforts,” said Joyce.
Along with the WRAIR team, which is led by Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, the Director of its Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, Joyce and his colleagues have developed a vaccine candidate which is built on a Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) platform. WRAIR's scientists are taking a strategic long-term approach to their vaccine development efforts. They expect the ferritin vaccine platform to pave the way for a universal vaccine to protect against all known and unknown coronaviruses that could arise in the future.
Joyce is also working on a collaboration with the University of Maryland to investigate nano-bodies generated by sharks after vaccinations. He and other scientists are exploring these antibodies’ potential to neutralize the virus. The structural biology group is also supporting efforts at WRAIR to identify novel therapeutics for COVID-19. They have also determined the structures of multiple neutralizing monoclonal antibodies in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain. This information serves to define novel sites of vulnerability that can be exploited to treat COVID-19.