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Consortium including MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology to provide Covid-19 protein reagents

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The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge is part of a consortium helping to provide vital reagents for free to enable Covid-19 research.

It is among leading centres of protein engineering and production brought together by Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under an Open Science initiative.

MRC LMB director Jan Lowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34821444)
MRC LMB director Jan Lowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34821444)

Together, they have launched the Covid-19 Protein Portal, providing protein reagents that are critical for research into the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but challenging and time consuming to produce - particularly under existing restricted working conditions.

The Covid-19 Protein Production Consortium (CPPC) is providing a searchable database at http://COVID19proteinportal.org, featuring reagents, including viral proteins, human proteins and antibodies relevant for SARS-CoV-2 biology.

Each reagent is annotated with key information, including sequence and origin, and researchers can submit requests for the proteins they require with a short research proposal that will be subject to rapid peer review.

This will enable the CPPC to coordinate and prioritise the allocation of reagents based on scientific merit and urgency. Approved requests will be allocated to one of the CPPC’s expert protein production laboratories.

Dr Jan Löwe, director of the LMB, on Cambridge Biomedical Campus, said: “LMB scientists are working hard to help fight Covid-19. By doing so many useful protein reagents are and will be generated and it will be crucial to be able to share these with other scientists as quickly and as easily as possible. The Covid-19 Protein Portal will help us achieve that with minimal effort and friction.”

Labs receiving the reagents will be required to provide feedback to the CPPC on their results and to share important outcomes with the scientific community.

The aim is to accelerate research that will aid the pursuit of Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

MRC LMB director Jan Lowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34821458)
MRC LMB director Jan Lowe. Picture: Keith Heppell. (34821458)

Dr Michael Dunn, Wellcome’s head of genetics and molecular science, said: “Researchers around the world are working at an unprecedented pace to deepen our understanding of Covid-19 and develop vaccines, treatments and tests against it. By collaborating across borders and openly sharing research and resources, we can learn more about the virus and help to bring this pandemic to an end.”

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the Medical Research Council, said: “The Covid-19 Protein Portal brings together the expertise of leaders in protein engineering and production throughout the UK, including colleagues in MRC-funded institutes and units.

“These researchers have very quickly developed high-quality robust research reagents, now being shared through the portal. This consortium is an ideal demonstration of collaboration and coordination across the research community, aiming to accelerate progress towards treatment of Covid-19.”

The CPPC features expert scientists from Diamond Light Source, the Edinburgh Protein Production Facility, the Francis Crick Institute, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit at the University of Dundee, MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, The Rosalind Franklin Institute, STRUBI, the Structural Genomics Consortium, and the University of Bristol, with logistical support from INSTRUCT-ERIC.

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