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UK consortium launches COVID-19 Protein Portal to provide essential reagents for SARS-CoV-2 research

Launching today, Tuesday 12 May, the COVID-19 Protein Portal allows UK scientists to access protein reagents for critical research relating to SARS-CoV-2. Protein reagents are provided free of charge by a consortium of leading protein production laboratories, in an Open Science initiative led by Wellcome and UKRI.

In response to the urgent need for COVID-19 therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, many expert UK scientists are working to understand the fundamental biology of SARS-CoV-2. Reliable protein reagents are crucial to such research, but can be challenging and time consuming to produce, especially under restricted working conditions.

To facilitate vital research on SARS-CoV-2, Wellcome and UKRI have brought together a consortium of leading centres of protein engineering and production to launch the COVID-19 Protein Portal. The COVID-19 Protein Production Consortium (CPPC) is made up of 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.

The CPPC will produce and provide access to protein reagents through the COVID-19 Protein Portal website at http://COVID19proteinportal.org. The Portal contains a searchable database of reagents, including viral proteins, human proteins and antibodies relevant for SARS-CoV-2 biology. Each reagent is annotated with key information, including sequence, origin, and SDS-page results. Researchers select the proteins they require from the database and submit their request with a short research proposal.

All requests will be subject to rapid peer review, to enable the CPPC to coordinate and prioritise reagent allocation based on scientific merit and the urgency of the request. Once approved, a request will be allocated to one of the CPPC’s expert protein production laboratories, all of whom are committed to providing high-quality reagents as quickly as possible.

Professor Dario Alessi, Director of the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU) at the University of Dundee, said, “Our dedicated staff have succeeded in making proteins that recognise each of the proteins that are encoded for by the COVID-19 virus. This has been a monumental effort in these very difficult times.

“These proteins represent crucial components for researchers and companies who are working to develop new treatments to suppress COVID-19 infection. The set of proteins we have produced are also being used to help develop better antibody tests to work out who has been previously infected with the virus. We are delighted that the Wellcome Trust and UKRI will support the distribution of Dundee-produced COVID proteins to worldwide researchers who require them.”

In the spirit of Open Science, recipient labs will be required to provide feedback to the CPPC on their results, and to share important outcomes with the scientific community. By contributing to the coordination of research efforts across the UK, the COVID-19 Protein Portal will accelerate vital research to deliver effective clinical management of COVID-19.

Dr Michael Dunn, Wellcome’s Head of Genetics and Molecular Science, noted “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, noted, “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.”

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