COVID Research

Much of the early work in cryo-EM was focused on solving the 3D structure of important viruses. With the new coronavirus structure in the headlines, we thought it would be helpful to point out a number of the structural biologists whose work has contributed to the rapid pace of research on coronaviruses.

We would like to congratulate all the researchers for their tremendous efforts. The Gatan team takes great pride in the instrumentation that helps to accelerate this research.

Distinct conformational states of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
Solved with the BioQuantum™ K3® System
Science - July 21, 2020

Structures, conformations, and distributions of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein trimers on intact virions
bioRxiv - June 27, 2020

In situ structural analysis of SARS-CoV-2 spike reveals flexibility mediated by three hinges
Solved with the BioQuantum K3 System
bioRxiv - June 26, 2020

Potent neutralizing monoclonal antibodies directed to multiple epitopes on the SARS-CoV-2 spike
Solved with the K3 Direct Detection Camera
bioRxiv - June 17, 2020

Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal SARS-CoV antibody
Nature - May 18, 2020

  • Antibodies are the bodies way to neutralize disease agents
  • Vaccines are designed to teach the body how to make antibodies
  • Antibodies can be purified and used as a drug
  • Cryo-EM structure from Gatan equipment allows the design and optimization of both vaccines and antibodies

Structure of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase from COVID-19 virus
Science - May 15, 2020

  • Preliminary results show remdesivir reduces recovery time for patients who receive the drug
  • A structure, solved by cryo-EM using Gatan equipment,  shows how remdesivir blocks virus replication
  • Remdesivir can be improved/optimized to better target COVID-19 using structure-based drug design

Structure of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase from COVID-19 virus
Science - April 10, 2020

  • The “spike” protein is the key target for vaccine and drug development efforts
  • Patent was filed for a vaccine based on this structure
  • US Patent US20200061185A1 / US2017/058370 Pending
  • Vaccine in Clinical Trials with encouraging results
  • "The K3 camera not only gave us great images…, it also prevented data collection from becoming a bottleneck, ultimately letting our team concentrate on getting the structure as quickly as possible”  - UT Austin Lead Scientist

What the structure of the coronavirus can tell us
Washington Post article - March 23, 2020

Understanding the coronavirus structure is important to build an effective vaccine or therapeutic.

  • Identify the target structure, mechanism, and dynamics involved in the disease
  • Precisely model an inhibitor (vaccine or therapeutic) and improve the effectiveness against the disease
  • Account for mutations that “drift” or “shift” a therapeutics' efficacy over time
  • Reduce side effects

Structural basis for the recognition of the SARS-CoV-2 by full-length human ACE2
Solved with the K3 Direct Detection Camera
Science- March 27, 2020

  • COVID-19 is pulled into cells after binding to a surface receptor
  • Understanding how it binds, at an atomic resolution, allows us to design drugs to block this from happening
  • K3 Camera helped this team solve this structure in record time


Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation 
Prepared with the Solarus® Plasma Cleaner and solved with the K3 Direct Detection Camera
Press release – February 19, 2020


BioContinuum System
K3 Direct Detection Camera


Elsa™ Cryo-Holder
Solarus II Plasma Cleaner
Latitude™ S Software