David Stuart - The structure of Ebola virus receptor, Ebola virus glycoprotein and potential therapies


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In 2016 we published 'Structure of glycosylated NPC1 luminal domain C reveals insights into NPC2 and Ebola virus interactions' FEBS letters 590 (5), 605-612. Now two years on, there is far more known about how the virus interacts with cells, about how some existing drugs can prevent this and about several potential routes to therapies for Ebola virus. In addition to our continued work, structural studies have been contributed by a number of groups across several continents, notably the USA (eg Erika Sapphire's group at the Scripps Research Institute) and China (eg George Gao's group at the China CDC).

I will take this system as a case study to illustrate how basic and applied science can intertwine in the face of global threats from emerging pathogenic viruses. Despite progress we should remember that we still have no licenced drugs or vaccines against Ebola virus, and we remain at risk of major outbreaks. Indeed as I write this the World Health Organization is responding to a significant outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

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