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Druggable pockets, the cloud, and SARS-CoV-2: An interview with Imre Berger

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Druggable pockets, the cloud, and SARS-CoV-2: An interview with Imre Berger

Recorded 15 April 2021


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Since the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus changed everyone's lives in March 2020, an extraordinary amount of time and effort has gone into understanding and characterizing this virus. In particular, researchers have been investigating its molecular structure, looking for chinks in its armor that might be exploited to weaken its ability to infect and sicken.  A group at the University of Bristol in the UK might have found one of those vulnerabilities: a conserved pocket in the spike protein of the virus that binds a specific fatty acid.
Join this conversation with Dr. Imre Berger as he explains how this potentially important discovery was made, the challenges they overcame in analyzing the masses of cryo-EM data generated, and how they're moving this discovery into clinical application.


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[Music: Ice Climb/Podington Bear; Podcast editing and production: Sean Sanders]

Speaker bio

Imre Berger, Ph.D.

Bristol University
Bristol, UK

Dr. Berger was trained as a biochemist at Leibniz University Hannover and Hannover Medical School in Hannover, Germany; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. After holding group leader posts at ETH (2005) and EMBL (2007), he was appointed professor of biochemistry and chemistry at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom in 2014. In 2017, he became director of the Bristol Synthetic Biology Centre and codirector of the Bristol BioDesign Institute (BBI). Since 2019, he has been founding and managing director of the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology and an investigator for the European Research Council. Dr. Berger researches essential proteins in human health and disease, creates synthetic vaccines, and develops enabling technologies for this purpose. He has pioneered synthetic viral nanosystems for DNA delivery and complex biologics production. The tools he developed are accelerating research and development in academia and industry worldwide. He holds international patents for protein and DNA technologies, and has published more than 130 papers in leading periodicals, cofounded four biotech companies, and received numerous distinctions for his innovative research, including the Swiss Technology Award, the W.A. DeVigier Foundation Award, and the Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award. Recently, Dr. Berger’s team discovered a druggable pocket in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as well as a drug that has promise for treating COVID-19.

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