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Live Notes and Conference Coverage in Real Time. COVID19 And The Impact on Cancer Patients Town Hall with Leading Oncologists; April 4, 2020

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD 

@StephenJWillia2

The Second in a Series of Virtual Town Halls with Leading Oncologist on Cancer Patient Care during COVID-19 Pandemic: What you need to know

The second virtual Town Hall with Leading International Oncologist, discussing the impact that the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has on cancer care and patient care issues will be held this Saturday April 4, 2020.  This Town Hall Series is led by Dr. Roy Herbst and Dr. Hossein Borghaei who will present a panel of experts to discuss issues pertaining to oncology practice as well as addressing physicians and patients concerns surrounding the risk COVID-19 presents to cancer care.  Some speakers on the panel represent oncologist from France and Italy, and will give their views of the situation in these countries.

 

Speakers include:

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, Ensign Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) and Professor of Pharmacology; Chief of Medical Oncology, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital; Associate Cancer Center Director for Translational Research, Yale Cancer Center

Hossain Borghaei, DO, MS , Chief of Thoracic Medical Oncology and Director of Lung Cancer Risk Assessment, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Giuseppe Curigliano, MD, PhD, University of Milan and Head of Phase I Division at IEO, European Institute of Oncology

Paolo Ascierto, MD National Tumor Institute Fondazione G. Pascale, Medical oncologist from National Cancer Institute of Naples, Italy

Fabrice Barlesi, MD, PhD, Thoracic oncologist Cofounder Marseille Immunopole Coordinator #ThePioneeRproject, Institut Gustave Roussy

Jack West, MD, Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, City of Hope California

Rohit Kumar, MD Department of Medicine, Section of Pulmonary Medicine, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Christopher Manley, MD Director, Interventional Pulmonology Fox Chase Cancer Center

Hope Rugo, MD FASCO Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Harriet Kluger, MD Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Director, Yale SPORE in Skin Cancer, Yale Cancer Center

Marianne J. Davies, DNP, MSN, RN, APRN, CNS-BC, ACNP-BC, AOCNP Assistant Professor of Nursing, Yale University

Barbara Burtness, MD Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology);  Head and Neck Cancers Program, Yale University

 

@pharma_BI and @StephenJWillia2 will be Tweeting out live notes using #CancerCareandCOVID19

Live Notes

Part I: Practice Management

Dr. Jack West from City of Hope talked about telemedicine:  Coordination of the patient experience, which used to be face to face now moved to a telemedicine alternative.  For example a patient doing well on personalized therapy, many patients are well suited for a telemedicine experience.  A benefit for both patient and physician.

Dr. Rohit Kumar: In small cancer hospitals, can be a bit difficult to determine which patient needs to come in and which do not.  For outpatients testing for COVID is becoming very pertinent as these tests need to come back faster than it is currently.  For inpatients the issue is personal protection equipment.  They are starting to reuse masks after sterilization with dry heat.   Best to restructure the system of seeing patients and scheduling procedures.

Dr. Christopher Manley: hypoxia was an issue for COVID19 patients but seeing GI symptoms in 5% of patients.  Nebulizers have potential to aerosolize.  For patients in surgery prep room surgical masks are fine.  Ventilating these patients are a challenge as hypoxia a problem.  Myocarditis is a problem in some patients.  Diffuse encephalopathy and kidney problems are being seen. So Interleukin 6 (IL6) inhibitors are being used to reduce the cytokine storm presented in patients suffering from COVID19.

Dr. Hope Rugo from UCSF: Breast cancer treatment during this pandemic has been challenging, even though they don’t use too much immuno-suppressive drugs.  How we decide on timing of therapy and future visits is crucial.  For early stage breast cancer, neoadjuvant therapy is being used to delay surgeries.  Endocrine therapy is more often being used. In patients that need chemotherapy, they are using growth factor therapy according to current guidelines.  Although that growth factor therapy might antagonize some lung problems, there is less need for multiple visits.

For metastatic breast cancer,  high risk ER positive are receiving endocrine therapy and using telemedicine for followups.  For chemotherapy they are trying to reduce the schedules or frequency it is given. Clinical trials have been put on hold, mostly pharmokinetic studies are hard to carry out unless patients can come in, so as they are limiting patient visits they are putting these type of clinical studies on hold.

Dr. Harriet Kluger:  Melanoma community of oncologists gathered together two weeks ago to discuss guidelines and best practices during this pandemic.   The discussed that there is a lack of data on immunotherapy long term benefit and don’t know the effectiveness of neoadjuvant therapy.  She noted that many patients on BRAF inhibitors like Taflinar (dabrafenib)   or Zelboraf (vemurafenib) might get fevers as a side effect from these inhibitors and telling them to just monitor themselves and get tested if they want. Yale has also instituted a practice that, if a patient tests positive for COVID19, Yale wants 24 hours between the next patient visit to limit spread and decontaminate.

Marianne Davies:  Blood work is now being done at satellite sites to limit number of in person visits to Yale.  Usually they did biopsies to determine resistance to therapy but now relying on liquid biopsies (if insurance isn’t covering it they are working with patient to assist).  For mesothelioma they are dropping chemotherapy that is very immunosuppressive and going with maintenance pembrolizumab (Keytruda).  It is challenging in that COPD mimics the symptoms of COVID and patients are finding it difficult to get nebulizers at the pharmacy because of shortages; these patients that develop COPD are also worried they will not get the respirators they need because of rationing.

Dr. Barbara Burtness: Head and neck cancer.  Dr. Burtness stresses to patients that the survival rate now for HPV positive head and neck is much better and leaves patients with extra information on their individual cancers.  She also noted a registry or database that is being formed to track data on COVID in patients undergoing surgery  and can be found here at https://globalsurg.org/covidsurg/

About CovidSurg

  • There is an urgent need to understand the outcomes of COVID-19 infected patients who undergo surgery.
  • Capturing real-world data and sharing international experience will inform the management of this complex group of patients who undergo surgery throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, improving their clinical care.
  • CovidSurg has been designed by an international collaborating group of surgeons and anesthetists, with representation from Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Korea, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Dr. Burtness had noted that healthcare care workers are at high risk of COVID exposure during ear nose and throat (ENT) procedures as the coronavirus resides in the upper respiratory tract.  As for therapy for head and neck cancers, they are staying away from high dose cisplatin because of the nephrotoxicity seen with high dose cisplatin.  An alternative is carboplatin which generally you do not see nephrotoxicity as an adverse event (a weekly carboplatin).  Changing or increasing dose schedule (like 6 weeks Keytruda) helps reduce immunologic problems related to immunosupression and patients do not have to come in as often.

Italy and France

Dr. Paolo Ascierto:   with braf inhibitors, using in tablet form so patients can take from home.  Also they are moving chemo schedules for inpatients so longer dosing schedules.  Fever still a side effect from braf inhibitors and they require a swab to be performed to ascertain patient is COVID19 negative.  Also seeing pneumonitis as this is an adverse event from checkpoint inhibitors so looking at CT scans and nasal swab to determine if just side effect of I/O drugs or a COVID19 case.  He mentioned that their area is now doing okay with resources.

Dr. Guiseppe Curigliano mentioned about the redesign of the Italian health system with spokes and hubs of health care.  Spokes are generalized medicine while the hubs represent more specialized centers like CV hubs or cancer hubs.  So for instance, if a melanoma patient in a spoke area with COVID cases they will be referred to a hub.  He says they are doing better in his area

In the question and answer period, Dr. West mentioned that they are relaxing many HIPAA regulations concerning telemedicine.  There is a website on the Centers for Connective Health Policy that shows state by state policy on conducting telemedicine.   On immuno oncology therapy, many in the panel had many questions concerning the long term risk to COVID associated with this type of therapy.  Fabrice mentioned they try to postpone use of I/O and although Dr. Kluger said there was an idea floating around that PD1/PDL1 inhibitors could be used as a prophylaxtic agent more data was needed.

Please revisit this page as the recording of this Town Hall will be made available next week.

 

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Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 3/20/2020

Among the people who are identified at risk of coronovirus 2019 infection and complications of the virus include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who in general, can be immunosuppressed, especially while patients are undergoing their treatment.  This has created anxiety among many cancer patients as well as their care givers and prompted many oncologist professional groups, cancer societies, and cancer centers to formulate some sort of guidelines for both the cancer patients and the oncology professional with respect to limiting the risk of infection to coronavirus (COVID19). 

 

This information will be periodically updated and we are working to get a Live Twitter Feed to bring oncologist and cancer patient advocacy groups together so up to date information can be communicated rapidly.  Please see this page regularly for updates as new information is curated.

IN ADDITION, I will curate a listing of drugs with adverse events of immunosuppression for people who might wonder if the medications they are taking are raising their risk of infections.

Please also see @pharma_BI for updates as well.

Please also see our Coronavirus Portal at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

For ease of reading information for patients are BOLDED and in RED

ASCO’s Response to COVID-19

From the Cancer Letter: The following is a guest editorial by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO. This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

 

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to the cancer care delivery system.

Our patients are already dealing with a life-threatening illness and are particularly vulnerable to this viral infection, which can be even more deadly for them. Further, as restrictions in daily movement and social distancing take hold, vulnerable patients may be disconnected from friends, family or other support they need as they manage their cancer.

As providers, we rely on evidence and experience when treating patients but now we face uncertainty. There are limited data to guide us in the specific management of cancer patients confronting COVID-19 and, at present, we have no population-level guidance regarding acceptable or appropriate adjustments of treatment and practice operations that both ensure the best outcome for our patients and protect the safety of our colleagues and staff.

As normal life is dramatically changed, we are all feeling anxious about the extreme economic challenges we face, but these issues are perhaps even more difficult for our patients, many of whom are now facing interruption

As we confront this extraordinary situation, the health and safety of members, staff, and individuals with cancer—in fact, the entire cancer community—is ASCO’s highest priority.

ASCO has been actively monitoring and responding to the pandemic to ensure that accurate information is readily available to clinicians and their patients. Recognizing that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that limited oncology-specific, evidence-based information is available, we are committed to sharing what is known and acknowledging what is unknown so that the most informed decisions can be made.

To help guide oncology professionals as they deal with the impact of coronavirus on both their patients and staff, ASCO has collated questions from its members, posted responses at asco.org and assembled a compendium of additional resources we hope will be helpful as the virus spreads and the disease unfolds. We continue to receive additional questions regarding clinical care and we are updating our FAQs on a regular basis.

We hope this information is helpful even when it merely confirms that there are no certain answers to many questions. Our answers are based on the best available information we identify in the literature, guidance from public health authorities, and input received from oncology and infectious disease experts.

For patients, we have posted a blog by Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee. This can be found on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, and it provides practical guidance to help patients reduce their risk of exposure, better understand COVID-19 symptoms, and locate additional information.

This blog is available both in English and Spanish. Additional blog posts addressing patient questions will be posted as new questions are received and new information becomes available.

Find below a Tweet from Dr.Markham which includes links to her article on COVID-19 for cancer patients

https://twitter.com/DrMarkham/status/1237797251038220289?s=20

NCCN’s Response to COVID-19 and COVID-19 Resources

JNCCN: How to Manage Cancer Care during COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)—a Member Institution of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)—are sharing insights and advice on how to continue providing optimal cancer care during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SCCA includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The peer-reviewed article sharing best practices is available for free online-ahead-of-print via open access at JNCCN.org.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for the Cancer Care Community

NCCN recognizes the rapidly changing medical information relating to COVID-19 in the oncology ecosystem, but understands that a forum for sharing best practices and specific institutional responses may be helpful to others.  Therefore, we are expeditiously providing documents and recommendations developed by NCCN Member Institutions or Guideline Panels as resources for oncology care providers. These resources have not been developed or reviewed by the standard NCCN processes, and are provided for information purposes only. We will post more resources as they become available so check back for additional updates.

Documents

Links

National Cancer Institute Response to COVID-19

More information at https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus

What people with cancer should know: https://www.cancer.gov/coronavirus

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov

Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus

 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

ON THIS PAGE

Both the resources at cancer.gov (NCI) as well as the resources from ASCO are updated as new information is evaluated and more guidelines are formulated by members of the oncologist and cancer care community and are excellent resources for those living with cancer, and also those who either care for cancer patients or their family and relatives.

Related Resources for Patients (please click on links)

 

 

 

Some resources and information for cancer patients from Twitter

Twitter feeds which may be useful sources of discussion and for cancer patients include:

 

@OncLive OncLive.com includes healthcare information for patients and includes videos and newsletters

 

 

@DrMarkham Dr. Markham is Chief of Heme-Onc & gyn med onc @UF | AD Med Affairs @UFHealthCancer and has collected very good information for patients concerning #Covid19 

 

 

@DrMaurieMarkman Dr. Maurie Markman is President of Medicine and Science (Cancer Centers of America, Philadelphia) @CancerCenter #TreatThePerson #Oncology #Genomics #PrecisionMedicine and hosts a great online live Tweet feed discussing current topics in cancer treatment and care for patients called #TreatThePerson Chat

UPDATED 3/20/2020 INFORMATION FROM NCI DESIGNATED CANCER CENTERS FOR PATIENTS/PROVIDERS

The following is a listing with links of NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and some select designated Cancer Centers* which have information on infectious risk guidance for cancer patients as well as their physicians and caregivers.   There are 51 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and as more cancer centers formulate guidance this list will be updated. 

 

Cancer Center State Link to COVID19 guidance
City of Hope CA Advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers
Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA CA Cancer and COVID19
UCSF Hellen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CA COVID-19 Links for Patients and Providers
Lee Moffit FL Protecting against Coronavirus 19
University of Kansas Cancer Center* KS COVID19 Info for patients
Barbara & Karmanos Cancer Institute (Wayne State) MI COVID19 Resources
Rogel Cancer Center (Univ of Michigan) MI COVID19 Patient Specific Guidelines
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center (MO) Coronavirus
Fred & Pamela Buffet CC* NE Resources for Patients and Providers
Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ NJ What patients should know about COVID19
Memorial Sloan Kettering NY What COVID19 means for cancer patients
Herbert Irving CC (Columbia University) NY Coronavirus Resource Center
MD Anderson Cancer  TX Planning for Patients, Providers
Hunstman Cancer Center UT COVID19 What you need to know
Fred Hutchinson WA COVID19 What patients need to know

 

 

Please also see related information on Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer and Immunotherapy at the following links on the Open Access Online Journal:

Volume Two: Cancer Therapies: Metabolic, Genomics, Interventional, Immunotherapy and Nanotechnology in Therapy Delivery 

at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/series-c-e-books-on-cancer-oncology/volume-two-immunotherapy-in-cancer-radiation-oncology/

AND

Coronavirus Portal

 

 

 

 

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Predicting the Protein Structure of Coronavirus: Inhibition of Nsp15 can slow viral replication and Cryo-EM – Spike protein structure (experimentally verified) vs AI-predicted protein structures (not experimentally verified) of DeepMind (Parent: Google) aka AlphaFold

 

Curators: Stephen J. Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019.

Image and Caption Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM available at https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=23311

 

UPDATED on 3/11/2020

Coronaviruses

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses make up a large family of viruses named for the crown-like spikes found on their surface (Figure 1). They carry their genetic material in single strands of RNA and cause respiratory problems and fever. Like HIV, coronaviruses can be transmitted between animals and humans.  Coronaviruses have been responsible for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic in the early 2000s and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in South Korea in 2015. While the most recent coronavirus, COVID-19, has caused international concern, accessible and inexpensive sequencing is helping us understand COVID-19 and respond to the outbreak quickly.

Figure 1. Coronaviruses with the characteristic spikes as seen under a microscope.

First studies that explore genetic susceptibility to COVID-19 are now being published. The first results indicate that COVID-19 infects cells using the ACE2 cell-surface receptor. Genetic variants in the ACE2 receptor gene are thus likely to influence how effectively COVID-19 can enter the cells in our bodies. Researchers hope to discover genetic variants that confer resistance to a COVID-19 infection, similar to how some variants in the CCR5 receptor gene make people immune to HIV. At Nebula Genomics, we are monitoring the latest COVID-19 research and will add any relevant discoveries to the Nebula Research Library in a timely manner.

The Role of Genomics in Responding to COVID-19

Scientists in China sequenced COVID-19’s genome just a few weeks after the first case was reported in Wuhan. This stands in contrast to SARS, which was discovered in late 2002 but was not sequenced until April of 2003. It is through inexpensive genome-sequencing that many scientists across the globe are learning and sharing information about COVID-19, allowing us to track the evolution of COVID-19 in real-time. Ultimately, sequencing can help remove the fear of the unknown and allow scientists and health professionals to prepare to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Next-generation DNA sequencing technology has enabled us to understand COVID-19 is ~30,000 bases long. Moreover, researchers in China determined that COVID-19 is also almost identical to a coronavirus found in bats and is very similar to SARS. These insights have been critical in aiding in the development of diagnostics and vaccines. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a diagnostic test to detect COVID-19 RNA from nose or mouth swabs.

Moreover, a number of different government agencies and pharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing COVID-19 vaccines to stop the COVID-19 from infecting more people. To protect humans from infection inactivated virus particles or parts of the virus (e.g. viral proteins) can be injected into humans. The immune system will recognize the inactivated virus as foreign, priming the body to build immunity against possible future infection. Of note, Moderna Inc., the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations identified a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in a record 42 days. This vaccine will be tested in human clinical trials starting in April.

For more information about COVID-19, please refer to the World Health Organization website.

SOURCE

https://blog.nebula.org/role-of-genomics-coronavirus-covid-19/?utm_source=Nebula%20Genomics&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=COVID-19

Aviva Lev-Ari
13.3K Tweets

Aviva Lev-Ari
@AVIVA1950

My BIO lnkd.in/eEyn69r MediaPharma ex-SRI ex-MITRE ex-McGraw-Hill Followed by

Aviva Lev-Ari
@AVIVA1950

Predicting the #ProteinStructure of #Coronavirus: #Inhibition of #Nsp15 #Cryo-EM – #spike #protein structure (#experimentally verified) vs #AI-predicted protein structures (not verified) of

(

) #AlphaFold

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Eric Topol
@EricTopol
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The problem w/ visionaries is that we don’t recognize them in a timely manner (too late) Ralph Baric @UNCpublichealth and Vineet Menachery deserve recognition for being 5 yrs ahead of #COVID19 nature.com/articles/nm.39 @NatureMedicine pnas.org/content/113/11 @PNASNews via @hoondy

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Senior, A.W., Evans, R., Jumper, J. et al. Improved protein structure prediction using potentials from deep learningNature 577, 706–710 (2020)https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1923-7

Abstract

Protein structure prediction can be used to determine the three-dimensional shape of a protein from its amino acid sequence1. This problem is of fundamental importance as the structure of a protein largely determines its function2; however, protein structures can be difficult to determine experimentally. Considerable progress has recently been made by leveraging genetic information. It is possible to infer which amino acid residues are in contact by analysing covariation in homologous sequences, which aids in the prediction of protein structures3. Here we show that we can train a neural network to make accurate predictions of the distances between pairs of residues, which convey more information about the structure than contact predictions. Using this information, we construct a potential of mean force4 that can accurately describe the shape of a protein. We find that the resulting potential can be optimized by a simple gradient descent algorithm to generate structures without complex sampling procedures. The resulting system, named AlphaFold, achieves high accuracy, even for sequences with fewer homologous sequences. In the recent Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction5 (CASP13)—a blind assessment of the state of the field—AlphaFold created high-accuracy structures (with template modelling (TM) scores6 of 0.7 or higher) for 24 out of 43 free modelling domains, whereas the next best method, which used sampling and contact information, achieved such accuracy for only 14 out of 43 domains. AlphaFold represents a considerable advance in protein-structure prediction. We expect this increased accuracy to enable insights into the function and malfunction of proteins, especially in cases for which no structures for homologous proteins have been experimentally determined7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1923-7

[ALA added bold face]

COVID-19 outbreak

The scientific community has galvanised in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, building on decades of basic research characterising this virus family. Labs at the forefront of the outbreak response shared genomes of the virus in open access databases, which enabled researchers to rapidly develop tests for this novel pathogen. Other labs have shared experimentally-determined and computationally-predicted structures of some of the viral proteins, and still others have shared epidemiological data. We hope to contribute to the scientific effort using the latest version of our AlphaFold system by releasing structure predictions of several under-studied proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We emphasise that these structure predictions have not been experimentally verified, but hope they may contribute to the scientific community’s interrogation of how the virus functions, and serve as a hypothesis generation platform for future experimental work in developing therapeutics. We’re indebted to the work of many other labs: this work wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of researchers across the globe who have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak with incredible agility.

Knowing a protein’s structure provides an important resource for understanding how it functions, but experiments to determine the structure can take months or longer, and some prove to be intractable. For this reason, researchers have been developing computational methods to predict protein structure from the amino acid sequence.  In cases where the structure of a similar protein has already been experimentally determined, algorithms based on “template modelling” are able to provide accurate predictions of the protein structure. AlphaFold, our recently published deep learning system, focuses on predicting protein structure accurately when no structures of similar proteins are available, called “free modelling”.  We’ve continued to improve these methods since that publication and want to provide the most useful predictions, so we’re sharing predicted structures for some of the proteins in SARS-CoV-2 generated using our newly-developed methods.

It’s important to note that our structure prediction system is still in development and we can’t be certain of the accuracy of the structures we are providing, although we are confident that the system is more accurate than our earlier CASP13 system. We confirmed that our system provided an accurate prediction for the experimentally determined SARS-CoV-2 spike protein structure shared in the Protein Data Bank, and this gave us confidence that our model predictions on other proteins may be useful. We recently shared our results with several colleagues at the Francis Crick Institute in the UK, including structural biologists and virologists, who encouraged us to release our structures to the general scientific community now. Our models include per-residue confidence scores to help indicate which parts of the structure are more likely to be correct. We have only provided predictions for proteins which lack suitable templates or are otherwise difficult for template modeling.  While these understudied proteins are not the main focus of current therapeutic efforts, they may add to researchers’ understanding of SARS-CoV-2.

Normally we’d wait to publish this work until it had been peer-reviewed for an academic journal. However, given the potential seriousness and time-sensitivity of the situation, we’re releasing the predicted structures as we have them now, under an open license so that anyone can make use of them.

Interested researchers can download the structures here, and can read more technical details about these predictions in a document included with the data. The protein structure predictions we’re releasing are for SARS-CoV-2 membrane protein, protein 3a, Nsp2, Nsp4, Nsp6, and Papain-like proteinase (C terminal domain). To emphasise, these are predicted structures which have not been experimentally verified. Work on the system continues for us, and we hope to share more about it in due course.

Citation:  John Jumper, Kathryn Tunyasuvunakool, Pushmeet Kohli, Demis Hassabis, and the AlphaFold Team, “Computational predictions of protein structures associated with COVID-19”, DeepMind website, 5 March 2020, https://deepmind.com/research/open-source/computational-predictions-of-protein-structures-associated-with-COVID-19

SARS-COV-2 MEMBRANE PROTEIN: A RENDERING OF ONE OF OUR PROTEIN STRUCTURE PREDICTIONS

SOURCES

Computational predictions of protein structures associated with COVID-19

https://deepmind.com/research/open-source/computational-predictions-of-protein-structures-associated-with-COVID-19

AlphaFold: Using AI for scientific discovery 

https://deepmind.com/blog/article/AlphaFold-Using-AI-for-scientific-discovery

 

DeepMind has shared its results with researchers at the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research lab in the UK, as well as offering it for download from its website.

“Normally we’d wait to publish this work until it had been peer-reviewed for an academic journal. However, given the potential seriousness and time-sensitivity of the situation, we’re releasing the predicted structures as we have them now, under an open license so that anyone can make use of them,” it said. [ALA added bold face]

There are 93,090 cases of COVID-19, and 3,198 deaths, spread across 76 countries, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization at time of writing. ®

SOURCE

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/03/06/deepmind_covid19_outbreak/

 

  • MHC content – The spike protein is thought to be the key to binding to cells via the angiotensin II receptor, the major mechanism the immune system uses to distinguish self from non-self

Preliminary Identification of Potential Vaccine Targets for the COVID-19 Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Based on SARS-CoV Immunological Studies

Syed Faraz Ahmed 1,† , Ahmed A. Quadeer 1, *,† and Matthew R. McKay 1,2, *

1 Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and

Technology, Hong Kong, China; sfahmed@connect.ust.hk

2 Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The Hong Kong University of Science and

Technology, Hong Kong, China

* Correspondence: eeaaquadeer@ust.hk.com (A.A.Q.); m.mckay@ust.hk (M.R.M.)

These authors contributed equally to this work.

Received: 9 February 2020; Accepted: 24 February 2020; Published: 25 February 2020

Abstract:

The beginning of 2020 has seen the emergence of COVID-19 outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). There is an imminent need to better understand this new virus and to develop ways to control its spread. In this study, we sought to gain insights for vaccine design against SARS-CoV-2 by considering the high genetic similarity between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV, which caused the outbreak in 2003, and leveraging existing immunological studies of SARS-CoV. By screening the experimentally determined SARS-CoV-derived B cell and T cell epitopes in the immunogenic structural proteins of SARS-CoV, we identified a set of B cell and T cell epitopes derived from the spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins that map identically to SARS-CoV-2 proteins. As no mutation has been observed in these identified epitopes among the 120 available SARS-CoV-2 sequences (as of 21 February 2020), immune targeting of these epitopes may potentially offer protection against this novel virus. For the T cell epitopes, we performed a population coverage analysis of the associated MHC alleles and proposed a set of epitopes that is estimated to provide broad coverage globally, as well as in China. Our findings provide a screened set of epitopes that can help guide experimental efforts towards the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Coronavirus; 2019-nCoV; 2019 novel coronavirus; SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19; SARS-CoV; MERS-CoV; T cell epitopes; B cell epitopes; vaccine [ALA added bold face]

SOURCE

https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/12/3/254/pdf

 

Selected Online COMMENTS to

https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2020/03/06/deepmind_covid19_outbreak/

MuscleguySilver badge

Re: Protein structure prediction has been done for ages…

Not quite, Natural Selection does not measure methods, it measures outputs, usually at the organism level.

Sure correct folding is necessary for much protein function and we have prions and chaperone proteins to get it wrong and right.

The only way NS measures methods and mechanisms is if they are very energetically wasteful. But there are some very wasteful ones out there. Beta-Catenin at the end of point of Wnt signalling comes particularly to mind.

Chemist

Re: Does not matter at all

“Determining the structure of the virus proteins might also help in developing a molecule that disrupts the operation of just those proteins, and not anything else in the human body.”

Well it might, but predicting whether a ‘drug’ will NOT interact with any other of the 20000+ protein in complex organisms is well beyond current science. If we could do that we could predict/avoid toxicity and other non-mechanism related side-effects & mostly we can’t.

rob miller

Title

There are 480 structures on PDBe resulting from a search on ‘coronavirus,’ the top hits from MERS and SARS. PR stunt or not, they did win the most recent CASP ‘competition’, so arguably it’s probably our best shot right now – and I am certainly not satisfied that they have been sufficiently open in explaining their algorithms though I have not checked in the last few months. No one is betting anyone’s health on this, and it is not like making one wrong turn in a series of car directions. Latest prediction algorithms incorporate contact map predictions, so it’s not like a wrong dihedral angle sends the chain off in the wrong direction. A decent model would give something to run docking algorithms against with a series of already approved drugs, then we take that shortlist into the lab. A confirmed hit could be an instantly available treatment, no two year wait as currently estimated. [ALA added bold face]

jelabarre59Silver badge

Re: these structure predictions have not been experimentally verified

Naaaah. Can’t possibly be a stupid marketing stunt.

Well yes, a good possibility. But it can also be trying to build on the open-source model of putting it out there for others to build and improve upon. Essentially opening that “peer review” to a larger audience quicker. [ALA added bold face]

We shall see.

Anonymous Coward

Anonymous CowardWhat bothers me, besides the obvious PR stunt, is that they say this prediction is licensed. How can a prediction from software be protected by, I presume, patents? And if this can be protected without even verifying which predictions actually work, what’s to stop someone spitting out millions of random, untested predictions just in case they can claim ownership later when one of them is proven to work? [ALA added bold face]

 

 

SOURCES

 

  • AI-predicted protein structures could unlock vaccine for Wuhan coronavirus… if correct… after clinical trials It’s not quite DeepMind’s ‘Come with me if you want to live’ moment, but it’s close, maybe

Experimentally derived by a group of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an agency under the US National Institute of Health. They both feature a “Spike protein structure.”

  • Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation

See all authors and affiliations

Science  19 Feb 2020:
eabb2507
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb2507

 

  • Israeli scientists: We have developed a coronavirus vaccine

https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/health/coronavirus-vaccine-israel-migal-research-institute-david-zigdon

Other related articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

 

  • Group of Researchers @ University of California, Riverside, the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, and Northwestern University solve COVID-19 Structure and Map Potential Therapeutics

Reporters: Stephen J Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2020/03/06/group-of-researchers-solve-covid-19-structure-and-map-potential-therapeutic/

 

  • Is It Time for the Virtual Scientific Conference?: Coronavirus, Travel Restrictions, Conferences Cancelled Curator:

Stephen J. Williams, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2020/03/06/is-it-time-for-the-virtual-scientific-conference-coronavirus-travel-restrictions-conferences-cancelled/

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Imaging (ECHO) marker that would identify early cardiotoxic effects: The impact of high-dose immunosuppression for ICI myocarditis Cardiac Echo Tracks Checkpoint Inhibitor Damage – Predicting cardiac injury before EF falls

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

The present study is the first to use Global longitudinal strain (GLS) specifically to identify immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) myocarditis, Abraham and Aras noted.

The study compared 101 ICI myocarditis cases from a multicenter international registry (30 with serial GLS) against a random sample of 92 ICI users at Neilan’s institution who did not present with myocarditis (14 with serial GLS) during a study period from 2013 through 2019.

Despite not propensity-matching these patients, the investigators ended up with two groups with similar age (around 65), sex (>60% men), and cancer type (most commonly melanoma and lung cancer).

Before ICI therapy, GLS was similar between groups (20.3% among cases and 20.6% among controls, P=0.60).

Patients who had myocarditis still had a normal ejection fraction in 60% of cases.

One major limitation of the study was that serial echocardiograms had not been routinely performed on people with myocarditis. “[T]hus, it was not possible to determine if the GLS decrease occurred prior to the development of myocarditis,” Neilan and colleagues acknowledged.

Furthermore, 97% of ICI myocarditis cases presented with elevated troponin levels, so it’s “unclear if GLS assessment has incremental value to such readily available biomarkers,” the editorialists pointed out.

“Additional work is needed to test if the GLS decrease occurs prior to the development of clinical myocarditis, can provide an early method of detection, and whether tailoring immunosuppressive therapy based on the measurement of GLS at presentation with myocarditis may be of value,” the authors said.

 

SOURCES

 

  • Cardiac Echo Tracks Checkpoint Inhibitor Damage

https://www.medpagetoday.com/cardiology/chf/84682?xid=nl_mpt_DHE_2020-02-04&eun=g99985d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Headlines%20Top%20Cat%20HeC%20%202020-02-04&utm_term=NL_Daily_DHE_dual-gmail-definition

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New Type of Killer T-Cell

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Scientists at Cardiff University have revealed a new type of killer T-cell which offers hope of a “one-size-fits-all” cancer therapy. Cancer-targeting via MR1-restricted T-cells is a thrilling new frontier, it increases the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment; a single type of T-cell that could be proficient of destroying numerous different types of cancers across the population.

T-cell therapies for cancer anywhere immune cells are removed, modified and returned to the patient’s blood to seek and destroy cancer cells – are the latest paradigm in cancer treatments. The most extensively-used therapy, known as CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy) encompasses genetic modification of patient’s autologous T-cells to express a CAR specific for a tumor antigen, subsequent by ex vivo cell expansion and re-infusion back to the patient. The therapy is personalized to each patient, but targets only a few types of cancers.

Currently, Cardiff academics discovered T-cells equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) which recognizes and kills most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells. This new TCR distinguishes when a molecule is present on the surface of a wide range of cancer cells and is able to distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells. Normal T-cells scans the surface of other cells to find anomalies and eliminate cancerous cells, yet ignores cells that contain only normal proteins.

The researchers at Cardiff was published in Nature Immunology, labels a unique TCR that can identify various types of cancer via a single HLA-like molecule called MR1 which varies in the human population. HLA differs extensively between individuals, which has previously prevented scientists from creating a single T-cell-based treatment that targets most cancers in all people. To investigate the therapeutic potential of these cells in vivo, the investigators injected T-cells able to identify MR1 into mice bearing human cancer and with a human immune system.

The Cardiff group were able to demonstrate that T-cells of melanoma patients modified to express this new TCR could destroy not only the patient’s own cancer cells, but also other patients’ cancer cells in the laboratory, irrespective of the patient’s HLA type. Experiments are under way to regulate the exact molecular mechanism by which the new TCR differentiates between healthy cells and cancer.

Source

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-01/cu-don012020.php

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

Effective humoral immune responses to infection and immunization are defined by high-affinity antibodies generated as a result of B cell differentiation and selection that occurs within germinal centers (GC). Within the GC, B cells undergo affinity maturation, an iterative and competitive process wherein B cells mutate their immunoglobulin genes (somatic hypermutation) and undergo clonal selection by competing for T cell help. Balancing the decision to remain within the GC and continue participating in affinity maturation or to exit the GC as a plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) is critical for achieving optimal antibody avidity, antibody quantity, and establishing immunological memory in response to immunization or infection. Humoral immune responses during chronic infections are often dysregulated and characterized by hypergammaglobulinemia, decreased affinity maturation, and delayed development of neutralizing antibodies. Previous studies have suggested that poor antibody quality is in part due to deletion of B cells prior to establishment of the GC response.

 

In fact the impact of chronic infections on B cell fate decisions in the GC remains poorly understood. To address this question, researchers used single-cell transcriptional profiling of virus-specific GC B cells to test the hypothesis that chronic viral infection disrupted GC B cell fate decisions leading to suboptimal humoral immunity. These studies revealed a critical GC differentiation checkpoint that is disrupted by chronic infection, specifically at the point of dark zone re-entry. During chronic viral infection, virus-specific GC B cells were shunted towards terminal plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) fates at the expense of continued participation in the GC. Early GC exit was associated with decreased B cell mutational burden and antibody quality. Persisting antigen and inflammation independently drove facets of dysregulation, with a key role for inflammation in directing premature terminal GC B cell differentiation and GC exit. Thus, the present research defines GC defects during chronic viral infection and identify a critical GC checkpoint that is short-circuited, preventing optimal maturation of humoral immunity.

 

Together, these studies identify a key GC B cell differentiation checkpoint that is dysregulated during chronic infection. Further, it was found that the chronic inflammatory environment, rather than persistent antigen, is sufficient to drive altered GC B cell differentiation during chronic infection even against unrelated antigens. However, the data also indicate that inflammatory circuits are likely linked to perception of antigen stimulation. Nevertheless, this study reveals a B cell-intrinsic program of transcriptional skewing in chronic viral infection that results in shunting out of the cyclic GC B cell process and early GC exit with consequences for antibody quality and hypergammaglobulinemia. These findings have implications for vaccination in individuals with pre-existing chronic infections where antibody responses are often ineffective and suggest that modulation of inflammatory pathways may be therapeutically useful to overcome impaired humoral immunity and foster affinity maturation during chronic viral infections.

 

References:

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/849844v1

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25656706

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27653600

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912368

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26799208

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23001146

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

 

One of the most contagious diseases known to humankind, measles killed an average of 2.6 million people each year before a vaccine was developed, according to the World Health Organization. Widespread vaccination has slashed the death toll. However, lack of access to vaccination and refusal to get vaccinated means measles still infects more than 7 million people and kills more than 100,000 each year worldwide as reported by WHO. The cases are on the rise, tripling in early 2019 and some experience well-known long-term consequences, including brain damage and vision and hearing loss. Previous epidemiological research into immune amnesia suggests that death rates attributed to measles could be even higher, accounting for as much as 50 percent of all childhood mortality.

 

Over the last decade, evidence has mounted that the measles vaccine protects in two ways. It prevents the well-known acute illness with spots and fever and also appears to protect from other infections over the long term by giving general boost to the immune system. The measles virus can impair the body’s immune memory, causing so-called immune amnesia. By protecting against measles infection, the vaccine prevents the body from losing or “forgetting” its immune memory and preserves its resistance to other infections. Researchers showed that the measles virus wipes out 11% to 73% of the different antibodies that protect against viral and bacterial strains a person was previously immune to like from influenza to herpes virus to bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections.

 

This study at Harvard Medical School and their collaborators is the first to measure the immune damage caused by the virus and underscores the value of preventing measles infection through vaccination. The discovery that measles depletes people’s antibody repertoires, partially obliterating immune memory to most previously encountered pathogens, supports the immune amnesia hypothesis. It was found that those who survive measles gradually regain their previous immunity to other viruses and bacteria as they get re-exposed to them. But because this process may take months to years, people remain vulnerable in the meantime to serious complications of those infections and thus booster shots of routine vaccines may be required.

 

VirScan detects antiviral and antibacterial antibodies in the blood that result from current or past encounters with viruses and bacteria, giving an overall snapshot of the immune system. Researchers gathered blood samples from unvaccinated children during a 2013 measles outbreak in the Netherlands and used VirScan to measure antibodies before and two months after infection in 77 children who’d contracted the disease. The researchers also compared the measurements to those of 115 uninfected children and adults. Researchers found a striking drop in antibodies from other pathogens in the measles-infected children that clearly suggested a direct effect on the immune system resembling measles-induced immune amnesia.

 

Further tests revealed that severe measles infection reduced people’s overall immunity more than mild infection. This could be particularly problematic for certain categories of children and adults, the researchers said. The present study observed the effects in previously healthy children only. But, measles is known to hit malnourished children much harder, the degree of immune amnesia and its effects could be even more severe in less healthy populations. Inoculation with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine did not impair children’s overall immunity. The results align with decades of research. Ensuring widespread vaccination against measles would not only help prevent the expected 120,000 deaths that will be directly attributed to measles this year alone, but could also avert potentially hundreds of thousands of additional deaths attributable to the lasting damage to the immune system.

 

References:

 

https://hms.harvard.edu/news/inside-immune-amnesia?utm_source=Silverpop

 

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6465/599

 

www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/measles-data-2019/en/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20636817

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27157064

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30797735

 

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