Will the origins of the coronavirus name lead us to the answers for a cure? The peptide therapeutics combating COVID-19

We look into the peptide therapeutics around the world combating COVID-19

Resources · April 8, 2020

COVID-19 has become a global pandemic that has resulted in unbelieve loss in human life and economic disaster. It’s hard to utilize only numbers to characterize the impact it has had.

With that, the race is on and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology space has been accelerating at full force to find a therapeutic. In the last few weeks at CSBio, we’ve seen that while not all companies are working directly on COVID-19 related activities, the need for a strong supply chain of pharmaceuticals has resulted in all of our customers being fully operational during this time and requiring support for their instruments. Some in the pharmaceutical space are even looking to move faster in the delivery of upcoming drugs, whether it be for name brand products or generics. With that said, let’s focus on the latest peptide research for COVID-19.

By now, nearly everyone is quite educated on the background of COVID-19, so we’ll skip the introduction. What some might not know, is that the name coronavirus, the family of virus which COVID-19 belongs, originates from the term “corona”. “Corona” also means halo, or crown. In astronomy, an example is the glow surrounding an eclipsed sun. While in anatomy, “corona” is defined by resemblance to a crown.

Under an electron microscope, that’s where the virus can be seen surrounded by a “corona”, where the spike glycoprotein is what creates the “corona” crown like appearance of the virus.

Image Description
Image Description

Coronavirus under an electron microscope and coronavirus structure

How does COVID-19 infect a person? Well it’s the spike glycoprotein that binds to the ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) receptor on cells, largely respiratory cells, though ACE2 receptors exist in other cells as well. This binding creates the entryway for the virus to the human cells, allowing it to replicate and spread to new cells. A paper that goes into this is from Professor Wrapp et al of University of Texas, Austin, where they evaluated the COVID glycoprotein as a key target for binding.

This target has been the focus for various peptide researchers, including those at Professor Brad Pentelute’s Lab at MIT, where they have identified a 23-mer peptide-based binder to inhibit the ability for the glycoprotein to bind to the ACE2 receptors, or Professor Bo-Jian Zheng at the University of Hong Kong where they have identified four 20-mer peptides that act as inhibitors to the same glycoprotein found in COVID-19. Could it be in targeting the “corona” where we find a cure?

While not necessarily targeting the “corona”, a number of other peptides have made news in combating coronavirus. This includes Cel-Sci who is utilizing their Ligand Antigen Epitode Presentation System (LEAPS) technology to develop an immunotherapy where they believe their LEAPS peptide “can stimulate the correct immune responses to the virus without producing unwanted inflammatory responses associated with lung tissue damage,” as noted in their press release by Daniel Zimmerman, Cel-Sci’s Senior VP of Research. Additionally Incyte and Shanghai Hengrui, who are utilizing camrelizumab and thymosin, where thymosin is a 28 amino acid peptide that helps to enhance the immune response.

More news around the world about peptides and COVID-19:

Are you working on COVID-19 peptides? Let us know, we’d love to add it to this list.

Need a peptide synthesizer that can rapidly synthesize peptides from your research to commercial needs? Get in touch with us.


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