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New AI Tool to Help Combat Future COVID Variants

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 13 Dec 2021
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A new artificial intelligence (AI) tool makes it possible to predict the structure of proteins faster, which is crucial for developing vaccines against coronavirus variants of the future.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark) and Evaxion Biotech (Copenhagen, Denmark) are behind the new tool that aims to pave the way for a vaccine that can prevent new pandemics. In order to prevent further severe pandemics, the researchers teamed up to develop a new AI tool that can more quickly and effectively predict how different protein elements can be assembled to increase the likelihood of coronavirus protection. Their tool, BIFROST, is a computer model that uses algorithms to put together virus proteins that are most likely to be included in a vaccine.

BIFROST uses data on amino acid chains – the building blocks of proteins – to predict how various proteins look and behave. In the future, this knowledge will allow researchers to design "super proteins" that elicit the desired response to viruses in the immune system, with few side effects. BIFROST has numerous advantages over other models used to learn about the shape and behavior of proteins. BIFROST is equipped to provide us with more suggestions about potential protein shapes and behaviors. This is important when trying to develop a vaccine that needs to be able to recognize many new variants of, for example, coronavirus spike proteins.

"The dream scenario is that we can design a coronavirus vaccine that is more effective than those of today and that protects against future corona variants or entirely new viruses. Here, BIFROST is an important step along the way," said Anders B. Sørensen, head of research at Evaxion. "We have proven that BIFROST acts as a concept in the design phase, whereas real-world testing with animal models will be completed in 2022. So there remains a ways to go for us to test how our designed proteins function in humans. Nevertheless, with BIFROST, we have taken an important step towards creating a vaccine that can protect us from future pandemics."

Related Links:
University of Copenhagen 
Evaxion Biotech 

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