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Inside a Seattle lab working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine

‘We’ve put a lot of projects on hold so that we can focus on this.’

In a tall building on the outskirts of downtown Seattle, a group of scientists from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design huddle in front of computers, concentrating on their screens. Using a special program, they’re tinkering with building blocks of proteins, taking the first of many steps to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Creating a working vaccine is challenging and will likely take over a year, at best. But with Seattle at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. — as of March 13, the state had seen 568 cases and 37 deaths, numbers almost certain to rise as more people are tested — this task is the top priority for the scientists. “We’ve put a lot of projects on hold so that we can focus on this,” said Brooke Fiala, a vaccine researcher who leads the institute’s nanoparticle laboratory.

Promising proteins designed on a computer are then tested in the lab at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. The coronavirus vaccine will consist of a nanoparticle, formed from many interlocking proteins. | Ian C Haydon/Institute for Protein Design

In order to fight the coronavirus, scientists from universities and drug companies around the world are developing vaccines, using a variety of methods. Some labs are manipulating the early stages of protein development, while others are working with dead versions of the virus. Fiala and her colleagues are taking a different approach: manufacturing nanoparticles to create a more efficient vaccine.

Read more here: https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.4/north-covid19-inside-a-seattle-lab-working-to-develop-a-vaccine-against-covid-19

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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.