UK consortium launches COVID-19 Protein Portal to provide essential reagents for SARS-CoV-2 research

Launching today, Tuesday 12th May, the COVID-19 Protein Portal allows UK scientists to access protein reagents for critical research relating to SARS-CoV-2. Protein reagents are provided free of charge by a consortium of leading protein production laboratories, in an Open Science initiative led by Wellcome and UKRI.

In response to the urgent need for COVID-19 therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, many expert UK scientists are working to understand the fundamental biology of SARS-CoV-2. Reliable protein reagents are crucial to such research, but can be challenging and time consuming to produce, especially under restricted working conditions.

To facilitate vital research on SARS-CoV-2, Wellcome and UKRI have brought together a consortium of leading centres of protein engineering and production to launch the COVID-19 Protein Portal. The COVID-19 Protein Production Consortium (CPPC) is made up of expert scientists from Diamond Light Source, the Edinburgh Protein Production Facility, the Francis Crick Institute, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit at the University of Dundee, MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, The Rosalind Franklin Institute, STRUBI, the Structural Genomics Consortium, and the University of Bristol; with logistical support from INSTRUCT-ERIC.

Professor James Naismith, Director of The Rosalind Franklin Institute said; “We know that gaining a deep understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is essential to our chances of developing treatments and vaccines. Structural biology is key to this, and the community has already produced exceptional work. We are proud to be part of this network, which will provide the tools the community needs to make further progress at greater speed. Our namesake, Dr Rosalind Franklin, studied the atomic structure of viruses, and we are proud to continue to carry that torch, and to enable thousands of researchers around the UK to do the same as part of this consortium. My co-workers in the Franklin are putting in very long hours in lab to do their part, everyone here is proud of them.”

The CPPC will produce and provide access to protein reagents through the COVID-19 Protein Portal website. The Portal contains a searchable database of reagents, including viral proteins, human proteins and antibodies relevant for SARS-CoV-2 biology. Each reagent is annotated with key information, including sequence, origin, and SDS-page results. Researchers select the proteins they require from the database and submit their request with a short research proposal. All requests will be subject to rapid peer review, to enable the CPPC to coordinate and prioritise reagent allocation based on scientific merit and the urgency of the request. Once approved, a request will be allocated to one of the CPPC’s expert protein production laboratories, all of whom are committed to providing high-quality reagents as quickly as possible.

In the spirit of Open Science, recipient labs will be required to provide feedback to the CPPC on their results, and to share important outcomes with the scientific community. By contributing to the coordination of research efforts across the UK, the COVID-19 Protein Portal will accelerate vital research to deliver effective clinical management of COVID-19.

Dr Michael Dunn, Wellcome’s Head of Genetics and Molecular Science, noted ‘Researchers around the world are working at an unprecedented pace to deepen our understanding of COVID-19 and develop vaccines, treatments and tests against it. By collaborating across borders and openly sharing research and resources, we can learn more about the virus and help to bring this pandemic to an end.’

Professor Ray Owens, the leader of Protein Production UK

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council noted “The COVID-19 Protein Portal brings together the expertise of leaders in protein engineering and production throughout the UK, including colleagues in MRC funded Institutes and Units.  These researchers have very quickly developed high-quality robust research reagents, now being shared through the Portal. This consortium is an ideal demonstration of collaboration and coordination across the research community, aiming to accelerate progress towards treatment of COVID-19.”

Find out more about Protein Production UK here.