Worldwide Collaboration to Tackle Covid Pandemic

Worldwide Collaboration to Tackle Covid Pandemic

Worldwide Collaboration to Tackle Covid Pandemic

Bette Korber, a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientist and New Mexico Consortium affiliate, along with LANL colleagues Hyejin Yoon, Will Fischer and James Theiler, and among nearly 130 authors from institutions around the world, recently published a paper in the journal Nature titled, “Defining the risk of SARS-CoV-2 variants on immune protection.”

In January of 2021, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases assembled a team including Korber, Fischer, Yoon and Theiler, made up of experts from around the world who specialize in fields such as viruses, the immune system, vaccines, epidemiology, structural biology, bioinformatics, virus genetics, and evolution. The team which spans 58 institutions is called SAVE, for SARS-CoV-2 Assessment of Viral Evolution.

The goal of the SAVE team is to provide a real-time risk assessment of COVID-19 mutations and emerging variants.

Over the last 20 years we have had many RNA viruses that have emerged such as West Nile virus, H1N1 influenza virus, chikungunya virus, Zika virus, SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV and Ebola virus. SAVE is a global collaborative program between academic, industry and commercial partners that is creating a model for rapidly responding to evolving pathogens and possible new pandemics in the future.

Korber and her team were part of the Early Detection and Analysis team. They work on the initial identification of emerging mutation patterns within the COVID-19 virus’s spike protein. Their work tracks newly emerging and expanding variants.  Their work also determines transitions in global and regional sampling frequencies over time.

Korber noted that, “The real beauty of being part of the larger SAVE project was the knowledge that our analysis pipeline could provide foundational support for the many experimental teams in SAVE, and that we could help the scientific community get the best version of newly emergent variants into their laboratories as quickly and accurately as possible. In this way the science needed to understand the immunological and virological characteristics of new variants was rapidly obtained, in time to help inform public health decisions.”

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