Top COVID-19 Research: Timely, Curated and Vetted by Experts

From the Curator-in-Chief's Desk—April 16, 2021

Lynn Enquist
Lynn Enquist, Ph.D., Curator-in-Chief
One year ago, ASM launched the COVID-19 Research Registry. In that time, over 1,700 papers have been posted to the registry, attracting over 87,000 unique pageviews. Establishing the COVID-19 Research Registry was a tremendous undertaking, and I want to thank all our curators for their time and work this past year supporting the registry.

This year, the progress of the scientific community on SARS-CoV-2 research and vaccine development has been extraordinary. Multiple safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have been developed, with over 840 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally and 200 million vaccine doses administered in the U.S. This week, in an email to a reporter, the CDC shared a 0.008% breakthrough rate in fully vaccinated individuals (5,800 cases among 77 million individuals), highlighting the high efficacy of current vaccines.

In vaccinated individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, Kustin, T., et al found breakthrough infections were more frequently caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern B.1.1.7 and B.1.351. To combat breakthrough infections caused by variants, Wu, K., et al developed and evaluated updated COVID-19 mRNA vaccines designed to target the B.1.351 variant lineage. The authors demonstrated that a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine that encodes for the B.1.351 lineage spike protein to mice fully vaccinated with the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine significantly increased neutralization titers to both the SARS-CoV-2 reference strain, as well as the B.1.351 lineage strain.

SARS-CoV-2 evolution and the impact of viral variants on immunity was the topic of this month’s COVID-19 Research Registry Virtual Journal Club. Thank you to Dr. Daryl Domman for his excellent overview of current SARS-CoV-2 variants in his presentation on the paper “The Variant Gambit: COVID’s Next Move.” And thank you to panelists Drs. Stephen Goldstein, Matthias Schnell, Jesse Shapiro and moderator Dr. Vaughn Cooper for their lively discussion about the role of convergent evolution in emerging variants and the need for global genomic surveillance to control SARS-CoV-2 spread. In case you missed the session, a recording will be posted in the next week to the Virtual Journal Club Archive, where you can find recordings of all the past sessions from the last year. You can also find more resources about SARS-CoV-2 variants under the registry’s Educational Resources.

Lynn Enquist, Ph.D.
COVID-19 Research Registry Curator-in-Chief


How is the genome of SARS-CoV-2 evolving? What mechanism does the coronavirus use to target human cells? How does the immune system react to SARS-CoV-2?



Will serology provide the ultimate answer? Does the existence of the antibody equal protection due to antibody neutralization? How often should patients be tested?


What are the results of the newest treatment? What drugs are in the pipeline? What are the latest outcomes from clinical trials?



What are the different kinds of vaccines? Do coronaviruses evolve to escape vaccines? What have we learned from work with Ebola virus and SARS vaccines development?


How does a pandemic start? How long will this pandemic last: can data models give us some hints? COVID-19 affects people differently depending on their age, how does this affect transmission? How does social distancing influence transmission rates?



Scientifically speaking, what is a coronavirus? What are the similarities and differences in structure and activities of SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2? What is the PK/PD of Remdesivir?

Biweekly Commentary Letter

April 9, 2021

By Seema S. Lakdawala, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pa.  

Increased transmission of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 (VOC 2020212/01) is not accounted for by a replicative advantage in primary airway cells or antibody escape” by Brown, J., et al., published on bioRxiv on March 1, 2021. 

The rapid rise of the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant world-wide clearly demonstrates the increased fitness for community spread. Many characteristics explaining this increased transmissibility have been proposed. In particular, an increase in ACE2 receptor affinity has been proposed to account for this increased transmissibility.  

In the manuscript by Brown et al, the authors address a variety of potential reasons for the increased transmission fitness for the B.1.1.7 variant. In a series of elegant studies, the authors test a wide range of SARS-CoV-2 virus strains for replication capacity in human airway epithelial cells at an air-liquid-interface. The authors demonstrate that viral growth is equivalent between the B.1.1.7 variant and other contemporaneous strains in human airway epithelial cultures. The authors further explore the efficiency of protease cleavage and demonstrate the substitutions in the SARS-CoV-2 spike do not drastically impact the efficiency of spike cleavage in the context of a full virus. In contrast, use of pseudotype viruses expressing single or combined spike mutants presented a stronger phenotype, solidifying the need to study important aspects of SARS-CoV-2 biology in the full viral context. Finally, in concert with other recent publications, the group demonstrates that convalescent sera from vaccinated and infected individuals was capable of neutralizing current B.1.1.7 isolates.  

Taken together, this manuscripts dispels important notions about the emergence and success of B.1.1.7 variant and strengthens the argument that vaccination will also function to limit the spread of this virus.  

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