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Joined: 03/03/2020
Groups: Go Science
Joined: 09/29/2016
Groups: Gargleblasters
Don't worry! :D

Here's what one of the scientists (bkoep) running Foldit had to say on Discord...

@ bkoep How will the advent of the new version of Covid-19 impact our current or future designs? Does the new version change the spike structure?

@alcor29 I'm guessing your question stems from stories like this one from the LA Times (which is misleading and speculative): https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original?_amp=true&__twitter_impression=truethis

These stories come from a pre-print study posted last week, here: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.29.069054v1
tl;dr - This has no impact on our Foldit strategy

In that study, the researchers look at CoV sequences from the last few months and around the globe, to track trends in mutations (the virus mutates all the time, but most mutations have negligible consequences and don't persist). They found one mutation in the CoV spike protein that seems to be gaining prominence. The mutation is D614G, where an aspartate residue is mutated to glycine.

It is still unclear whether the mutation has any meaningful impact on virus fitness (for example, if it makes the virus more transmissible). The rise in prominence could also be explained by social factors. It's also unclear how this mutation might affect the structure of the spike protein.

But it's extremely unlikely to have any impact on our Foldit spike binders. That's because the site of this mutation on the spike is very distant from the region we are targeting (the spike is a BIG protein). So it's almost certain this mutation will have no effect on spike binders designed in Foldit so far.
[/end discord quote]

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More info

For more on the subject, I recommend this blog post by Derek Lowe, who generally does a great job of digesting current biomedical research for non-experts:

And especially this Twitter thread by Trevor Bedford, an authority on virology here at UW:


Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
Supported by: DARPA, NSF, NIH, HHMI, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Boehringer Ingelheim, RosettaCommons