Breadcrumbs

International collaboration aims to put scientists ahead of coronavirus

16 September 2022

Dr Will Kelton has been working with international partners to prepare for future coronavirus variants

University of Waikato researcher Dr William Kelton from Te Huataki Waiora - School of Health has been working with international partners to prepare for future coronavirus variants using Artificial Intelligence.

In a paper recently published in Cell, the team, headed by researchers at ETH Zurich with input from Dr Kelton, have developed a method to explore the possibilities of how the pandemic virus could evolve.

Dr Kelton’s initial concept was to take the proteins from the coronavirus surface (not the live virus) into the lab and create lots of artificial mutations to the protein, screening those mutations to discover which ones allow binding to cells. Prof Sai Reddy and his team at ETH expanded upon the concept by adding  antibodies to the process to mimic the selection pressures a virus might undergo in the human body.

This protein engineering information was used to train machine-learning models to predict how well a new variant might bind to cells and escape antibody binding from tens of billions of possibilities.

Dr Kelton says the model is very accurate at predicting potential pathways by which new variants might evolve and may provide a pathway to fighting future variants.

“If we can get ahead of Covid, we can make drugs and antibodies before these variants emerge and design solutions to combat them. We can also test to see how existing drugs work against panels of potential variants.”

Dr Kelton says the international collaboration with ETH Zurich to work towards solutions for a global pandemic was incredibly rewarding.

“New Zealand might be a small player on the global COVID-19 research stage but highly interdisciplinary and collaborative projects like this one are essential to limiting the impact of the current pandemic as well as those that could emerge in the future. I look forward to continuing and expanding this collaboration with ETH”


This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Good Health and Well-being Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Partnerships for the goals

Latest stories

Related stories

Waikato shines bright in a sea of stars at science awards

University of Waikato scientists and researchers shone brightly in a stellar showcase of science talent…

Seven scholarships announced on Kīngitanga Day support rangatahi and the environment

Seven University of Waikato undergraduate students have been awarded the Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu…

Study offers first comprehensive assessment of extreme heat risks across Aotearoa

A new University of Waikato-led study, published this week in Climatic Change, has provided a…

Award-winning adult learner proves primary school teacher wrong

A primary school teacher’s prediction that Jared Kelsen “was destined to dig ditches” has been…

Unraveling the misinformation web

An international study into the web of online information about spiders shows how the internet…

Kiri Reihana

Ocean scientist awarded L’Oréal Fellowship

A University of Waikato PhD student has won a L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science mentoring…

Antarctica New Zealand scholarships for two Waikato students

University of Waikato students Madison Farrant and Sofia Rauzi have received post graduate research scholarships…

Science alumna wins prestigious conservation award

Science alumna, wetlands expert and advocate Dr Beverley Clarkson has been awarded the Loder Cup…

Research shows oxytocin could be used as an appetite suppressant

Oxytocin, the drug sometimes called the love hormone, and which is used to bring on…

Summer research projects inspire students

Whoever thinks research is a dull and lonely occupation has got it wrong, says psychology…

Professor Taciano Milfont

Waikato appoints three new Professors

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley has announced promotion to Professor for three academics,…

Vic Arcus web

Battling cattle bloat

Why are some cows more susceptible than others to bloat? Scientists think a single protein…