Pembroke Chemists Publish Important COVID-19 Research in Science


Pembroke Chemistry Tutors, Professor Andrew Baldwin and Professor Ben Davis have collaborated with DPhil student Charles Buchanan on a new research paper "Pathogen-sugar interactions revealed by universal saturation transfer analysis" which has been published in the Science Journal yesterday.

Science publishes the very best in research across the sciences and articles in the journal are often among the most cited in the world.

The group’s research follows the evolution of pathogens such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2 once they enter the lungs using a novel Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) method.

Professor Baldwin explains that the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 sticks to the many glycans coating the lungs, which are tipped with sialic acid residues. This is thought to be important for zoonosis. As SARS-CoV-2 mutates, variants shed their binding function and become more specialised (alpha/beta/delta/omicron).

A more detailed summary of the paper can be found on the Oxford Chemistry Department’s website here.

Science editor describes:

“Viral infection of a cell requires a complex series of molecular recognition events, often mediated by glycoproteins and cell-surface glycans. Buchanan et al. developed a nuclear magnetic resonance analysis method to better study such interactions and applied it to influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) proteins binding sialoside glycans. For SARS-CoV-2 in particular, they find evidence for a sialoside binding site in the N-terminal domain of the original Wuhan HexaPro spike that was lost in subsequent variants. These results are corroborated by cryo-electron microscopy structures of the glycan bound spike protein and a genetic variation analysis from patients early in the pandemic that uncovered host factors involved in glycosylation that potentially contributed to variation in disease severity.”

Read the full piece on the Science website here.


Pembroke College Chemists. From left to right: Charles Buchanan, Professor Andrew Baldwin and Professor Ben Davis