TEST-COVID: Development of a next-generation COVID-19 serology test using 3D protein modelling and glycosylated immunogenic peptides

University of Edinburgh

Active award

Principal Investogator: Professor Nick Gilbert

Year Award Started: 2020

Serology tests provide information about viral exposure as they identify anti-viral antibodies in clinical samples. First generation serology tests are being evaluated: they interrogate a small number of linear antigens, have low sensitivity and throughput, are expensive and only indicate whether an individual has been exposed to virus and are not prognostic. They have not been optimised to take advantage of the 3D context of epitopes or protein modifications common in viruses. We aim to develop a next generation COVID-19 serology test using our expertise in 3D protein modelling and modified immunogenic peptides. This test that can be used to (i) stratify individuals based on SARS-CoV-2 exposure (ii) lockdown de-escalation and basis for immunity passports (iii) control and monitor recurrent outbreaks (iv) provide immunology / epidemiology data (v) monitor vaccine effectiveness. The critical step in developing a serology test is identifying immunogenic parts of the virus that can elicit an antibody response in infected or exposed individuals. We have leveraged our expertise in protein folding to develop a novel structure-based computational model to identify critical immunogenic parts of the virus. These protein fragments from the virus will be synthesised and screened to identify informative peptides that will be used to make a serology test. The key indicator of success will be the fundamental development of a gold-standard serology test that is sensitive and specific that can be used for the stratification and prognostication of patient samples. This funding will support development of this project and pump prime the next level of funding.

Research area: Infections, inflammation or immunology