5 Questions with COVID Researchers: Sarah Bowman, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute

Image courtesy of Dr. Sarah Bowman

This post is part of the series 5 Questions with COVID Researchers. Hear from researchers across the Northeast United States about how they are working to mitigate the widespread impacts of COVID-19, and learn about opportunities for cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaboration that could enable further progress in the fight against the pandemic. To learn more about COVID-related research, keep updated with virtual events and funding opportunities, and access other resources including datasets and guides, visit the COVID Information Commons. If you would like to be featured in this series, please email Katie Naum and Helen Yang.

Guest post by Dr. Sarah Bowman, Associate Research Scientist at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, and Principal Investigator on NSF Award #2029943, “Enhanced SARS-CoV-2 High-Throughput Crystallization for Structural Studies.”

What is the problem you are trying to solve, and how will you and your team address it?

Understanding the structures of the SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins is essential to understanding its biology, its infectiousness, its transmissibility, and how to develop treatments for it. Our project focuses on enabling the process of structure determination for SARS-CoV-2 proteins. A major method in structural biology is X-ray crystallography; to use this method requires crystalline samples. We have been applying high-throughput experiments, advanced imaging methods and extensive structural expertise to facilitate scientists working with SARS-CoV-2 proteins to enable fast structure determination.

What data are you working with? How will it be used?

We are providing coordinated and centralized resources for experimental screening of SARS-CoV-2-related samples and enhanced imaging for rapid detection of crystal growth formation for structural biology studies of SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

Is your team seeking collaborators, subject matter experts, or other resources that you’d like to put a call out for?

We are interested in providing high-throughput crystallization screening for researchers who have samples of SARS-CoV-2 protein constructs.

How does this work contribute to the fight against the pandemic?

We have already worked with multiple SARS-CoV-2 proteins to establish crystallization conditions. Structural information has been critical to understanding the role of the spike protein in the mechanism of infection and to understanding the ways that the viral proteases enable the viral replication cycle. Our work has already contributed to these structural studies, as well as to structures of a number of accessory proteins and protein interactions with potential inhibitory compounds.

Where can people learn more about your progress?

More information and updates are available on our website www.getacrystal.org and on Twitter @getacrystal.

Sarah Bowman is an Associate Research Scientist at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Director of the High-Throughput Crystallization Screening Center, and a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University at Buffalo.