Chad Petit, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, says his project allowed him to build the ground work for expanding his lab’s focus to include host pathogen interactions involving coronaviruses.

“The funding gave me the opportunity to obtain preliminary data and develop reagents for future grant opportunities,” he says.

“Our lab was the first to solve the high-resolution structure of SARS-CoV-2 nsp1, a protein that plays a vital role in the coronavirus lifecycle,” Petit says. “Nsp1 has been highlighted as a potential target for future drug discovery efforts and the development of live attenuated viral vaccines. In this study, we compared the nsp1 from SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 to determine how much of the protein structure was conserved between these two closely related viruses.”

Petit and his team published the results and analysis in Journal of Virology. “Our artwork, based on our findings, was selected for the cover of the issue that our article was published in.”

Now, Petit is developing a reverse genetics system to generate mutant SARS-CoV-2 viruses. This will allow him to interrogate how any interactions his team observes affect the CoV replication cycle.