Diamond Light Source: contributions to SARS-CoV-2 biology and therapeutics

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2021 Jan 29;538:40-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.11.041. Epub 2020 Nov 19.


The impact of COVID-19 on public health and the global economy has led to an unprecedented research response, with a major emphasis on the development of safe vaccines and drugs. However, effective, safe treatments typically take over a decade to develop and there are still no clinically approved therapies to treat highly pathogenic coronaviruses. Repurposing of known drugs can speed up development and this strategy, along with the use of biologicals (notably monoclonal antibody therapy) and vaccine development programmes remain the principal routes to dealing with the immediate impact of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the development of broadly-effective highly potent antivirals should be a major longer term goal. Structural biology has been applied with enormous effect, with key proteins structurally characterised only weeks after the SARS-CoV-2 sequence was released. Open-access to advanced infrastructure for structural biology techniques at synchrotrons and high-end cryo-EM and NMR centres has brought these technologies centre-stage in drug discovery. We summarise the role of Diamond Light Source in responses to the pandemic and note the impact of the immediate release of results in fuelling an open-science approach to early-stage drug discovery.

Keywords: Antibody structure; COVID-19; Cryo-electron microscopy; Crystallography; Drug repurposing; Fragment based drug discovery; SARS-CoV-2; Structural biology; Structure-based drug design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • Drug Development*
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Humans
  • Protein Conformation
  • SARS-CoV-2* / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2* / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins* / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins* / genetics


  • Viral Proteins