Coronavirus Research

Cryo-EM has become an essential tool in fighting disease, and it has played a vital role in solving the 3D structure of the novel coronavirus. This structural insight has made possible the development and deployment of several vaccines to treat Covid 19. Numerous scientists have worked tirelessly to understand and combat this virus, and we wanted to highlight here the work that has contributed to the rapid, successful research on coronaviruses.

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

Cryo-EM research on COVID-19 accelerated with Gatan instrumentation. The cumulative number of SARS-CoV-2 cryo-EM research articles that utilized Gatan cameras rose to >80 within the first 10 months (left). Most of these articles were published in prestigious scientific journals with a broad readership (right). 

Structures, conformations, and distributions of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein trimers on intact virions
Nature - August 17, 2020

  • The spike protein of the COVID-19 virus is a highly flexible protein.
  • The conformational flexibility of spike protein protects the COVID-19 virus from the immune system and allows viral entry into human cells
  • Structures obtained from expressed and purified spike protein might provide limited information on its flexibility  
  • Cryo-EM structures of spike protein conformational states obtained from intact frozen viruses and solved with Gatan equipment provides valuable information for vaccine development


Potent neutralizing monoclonal antibodies directed to multiple epitopes on the SARS-CoV-2 spike
Solved with the K3 Direct Detection Camera
Nature - July 22, 2020

  • Virus-neutralizing antibodies are one of the approaches to treat or prevent infection by the COVID-19 virus
  • The COVID-19 spike protein is the key target of virus-neutralizing antibodies
  • Scientist are using Gatan equipment to study the binding of virus-neutralizing antibodies to the COVID-19 spike protein
  • Cryo-EM structures allow optimization of virus-neutralizing antibodies as potential therapeutic agents against the COVID-19 virus 



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

  • Cryo-EM structures of the COVID-19 spike protein in prefusion and postfusion conformations solved with Gatan equipment
  • Distinct conformational states of spike protein help scientists understand how the COVID-19 virus evades the immune system and enters human cells   
  • The structures of spike protein conformational states allow the development of vaccine strategies


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 a 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