Atmospheric Integrated Research at University of California, Irvine

Tobias joins faculty COVID-19 research project

Wed, 04/01/2020

AirUCI faculty Doug Tobias, chair of UCI's Chemistry Department, is lending his expertise in molecular modeling to a new research endeavor to blunt effects of the COVID-19 virus.  Prof. Rachel Martin is leading the team, comprised of several Chemistry faculty, who are applying their knowledge of cysteine proteases (proteins and enzymes) to come up with inhibitor strategies to block those enzymes in this new coronavirus.
Rachel explains that viruses don’t have many genes, so they need to be very efficient with their resources; that’s why they highjack mammalian cells to do their bidding. A common viral strategy is to express all of their proteins at once in a long string, then a molecule called a protease cuts up the chain so the proteins can perform various functions – which ultimately sicken the host mammal.  “While it may not completely stop the virus like a vaccine could, blocking this action of the protease enzyme could be a step toward knocking the virus down and preventing it from causing such dire illnesses,” Martin says.
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