Predicting Viral and Human Variants Affecting COVID-19 Susceptibility and Severity and Repurposing Therapeutics

Christine Orengo (primary)
Structural and Molecular Biology
University College London
Franca Fraternali (secondary)
Randall Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics
Kings College London


SARS-CoV-2 has caused a pandemic resulting in millions of deaths worldwide. Vaccine results are encouraging but need to be adjusted for variants, and therapeutics will be needed for some time. This project will analyse variations in SARS-CoV-2 proteins, affecting viral transmissibility and infectivity. It will also analyse variants in human proteins, interacting with viral proteins, to identify human populations (different genders/ethnicities) which are more susceptible. It benefits from in-house computational platforms that predict impacts of variations in proteins associated with cancer. The aim is to understand how variants affect disease severity and identify proteins that can be targeted by drugs.


1. SARS-CoV-2 spike protein predicted to form complexes with host receptor protein orthologues from a broad range of mammals. Lam SD, Bordin N, Waman VP, Scholes HM, Ashford P, Sen N, van Dorp L, Rauer C, Dawson NL, Pang CSM, Abbasian M, Sillitoe I, Edwards SJL, Fraternali F, Lees JG, Santini JM, Orengo CA.Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 5;10(1):16471. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71936-5.PMID: 33020502.

2. The impact of structural bioinformatics tools and resources on SARS-CoV-2 research and therapeutic strategies. Waman VP, Sen N, Varadi M, Daina A, Wodak SJ, Zoete V, Velankar S, Orengo C. Briefings in Bioinformatics. 2021 Mar 22;22(2):742-768. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbaa362.PMID: 33348379.

3. Arthropod Ectoparasites Have Potential to Bind SARS-CoV-2 via ACE.
Lam SD, Ashford P, Díaz-Sánchez S, Villar M, Gortázar C, de la Fuente J, Orengo C.Viruses. 2021 Apr 19;13(4):708. doi: 10.3390/v13040708.PMID: 33921873.

4. CATH: increased structural coverage of functional space. I Sillitoe, N Bordin, N Dawson, VP Waman, P Ashford, HM Scholes, Nucleic Acids Research 49 (D1), D266-D273.

5. A New Crystal Form of the SARS-CoV-2 Receptor Binding Domain: CR3022 Complex—An Ideal Target for In-Crystal Fragment Screening of the ACE2 Binding Site Surface Front. C Nichols, J .Ng, A Keshu, F. Fraternali, F. De Nicola. Pharmacol., 14 December 2020 |

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
EvolutionStructural Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BioinformaticsBiophysicsMathematics / StatisticsSimulation / Modelling