Hong Kong scientists identify biomarkers helpful for novel coronavirus vaccine development

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-27 20:07:35|Editor: huaxia

HONG KONG, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology announced on Thursday that their scientists have identified a set of potential vaccine targets which could be helpful for the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

A team led by the university's data scientists Matthew McKay and Ahmed Abdul Quadeer have identified a set of B cell and T cell epitopes derived from SARS, protein fragments that can trigger the immune response against SARS-CoV, that may similarly trigger an immune response against the novel coronavirus. The findings are fundamental in guiding further studies on the development of effective vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

The team found that 20 percent of the SARS-CoV epitopes (small protein fragments of virus targeted by human immune cells) have an identical genetic match to novel coronavirus.

"We believe these are the most likely candidates which can trigger an immune response against COVID-19," Matthew McKay, professor from the university's Departments of Electronic and Computer Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering said.

The team has also performed a population coverage analysis and found that the T cell epitopes identified in this study had the capacity to induce an immune response in a large portion of the population during the time of SARS.

"Given this epitope set also exists in the COVID-19 virus, a vaccine developed from it has the potential to also be effective for a large portion of the population," said Ahmed Abdul Quadeer, post-doctoral fellow of the university's Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering.

The findings were published in the scientific journal Viruses.