In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ploss Lab has teamed up with the MacMillan Group to identify cellular host factors that facilitate viral entry of SARS-CoV-2. This collaboration was highlighted by a Princeton University press release, found here. The article quotes Alex as saying:
Viruses are highly dependent on a multitude of host factors to go through their infection cycles, and SARS-CoV-2 is no exception. Many of these cellular factors are not yet defined for SARS-CoV-2. Any one of such host factors could represent a target for therapeutic intervention. We aim to define precisely which molecules SARS-CoV-2 interacts with during viral uptake and during viral replication.
Since SARS-CoV-2 can only be handled under very strict biosafety conditions, two Ploss Lab postdocs, Tomokazu Tamura and Saori Suzuki, have been preparing a SARS-CoV-2 pseudoparticle, which retains a similar molecular composition as the normal virus but is non-infectious. Combining this pseudoparticle with the MacMillan group’s µMap technology, the project aims to investigate how SARS-CoV-2 might attach to, enter, and act within cells.
Outside of this collaboration, the Ploss Lab has received funding from Princeton University for several other projects related to COVID-19. Among them are efforts to screen FDA-approved compounds against SARS-CoV-2, explore a potential vaccine strategy, and develop a strain of mice permissive to infection by SARS-CoV-2 that could serve as a model for future preclinical drug testing.
Saori Suzuki (left) and Tomokazu Tamura (right) prepare SARS-CoV-2 pseudoparticles, as highlighted in the Princeton University press release.