Overcoming the Corona Crisis Together: Forschungszentrum Jülich

The number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 is rising dramatically every day, both in Germany and all over the world. This is presenting society and individuals with enormous challenges. Just like many other scientists within the Helmholtz Association and around the world, scientists from Forschungszentrum Jülich are doing their part to investigate the novel coronavirus.

Overview of individual projects

1. Mathematical models on the COVID-19 outbreak in Germany

Together with the University of Heidelberg and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS), the project’s researchers are planning to develop mathematical models on the dynamics of the coronavirus outbreak in Germany. The aim of the project is to understand and control the current pandemic as well as to contribute to preventing future pandemics.

Contact/involvement

Prof. Thomas Lippert
Tel: +49 2461 61-2200
Email: th.lippert@fz-juelich.de

Prof. Volker Lindenstruth, FIAS
Goethe University Frankfurt
Email: voli@compeng.de

Dr. Maria Barbarossa
University of Heidelberg
Email: barbarossa@uni-heidelberg.de

2. Using Exascale to fight COVID-19

The EXSCALATE4CORONAVIRUS project (E4C) involves a close collaboration among three of largest supercomputing centres in the EU (CINECA in Italy, the Barcelona supercomputing centre in Spain and the supercomputing centre of Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany) along with a pharmaceutical company, and several universities and research Institutes. These include the Jülich Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine, Computational Biomedicine (INM-9). The E4C team use supercomputers to perform molecular simulations and in silico, i.e. using special programs or algorithms, biochemical and phenotypic screening of existing drugs against SARS-CoV-2. This approach allows the fast analysis of simulation results and reduces the time required to discover new therapeutic agents.

Project information: https://www.exscalate4cov.eu/

Contact

Prof. Giulia Rossetti
E-Mail: g.rossetti@fz-juelich.de

Prof. Paolo Carloni
E-Mail: p.carloni@fz-juelich.de

3. Computing time for coronavirus research

Within the scope of a joint initiative by the Gauss centres, the Jülich Supercomputing Centre is offering computing time on its HPC facilities and support for the investigation of the COVID-19 virus. Resources for studies concerned with the spread of the virus or with research on the medical or molecular level are offered to experts in an unbureaucratic and fast manner.

Contact:

Prof. Thomas Lippert
Tel: +49 2461 61-2200
Email: th.lippert@fz-juelich.de

4. Structural biology research on drug development for SARS-CoV-2

Structural biochemists at the Jülich Institute of Biological Information Processing develop a specific binding molecule (ligand) which displaces a certain binding protein of the coronavirus (recognition binding domain of the viral spike protein) from the receptor (ACE2) of the host cell. This means that the virus can no longer dock to the cell surface and fuse with the host cell. NMR spectroscopy can be used to investigate conformational changes of the binding protein on the envelope of the corona virus with atomic resolution. In addition, the 3D structure of another viral protein (ORF8) will be decoded and how this protein can be inhibited so that it can no longer reproduce will be investigated. A third project investigates how a viral enzyme (3C-like protease) needed by the virus for reproduction can be inhibited.

Contact

Prof. Dieter Willbold
Tel: +49 2461 61-2100
Email: d.willbold@fz-juelich.de

5. Rapid access for research on coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Researchers around the world are trying to develop drugs or a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. In view of the corona pandemic, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (MLZ) also offers separate access to measurements with neutrons, which can provide important insight into the behavior of the virus. At the MLZ, the Jülich Center for Neutron Science operates, partly in close cooperation with partners, neutron scattering instruments with which the structure and dynamics of biological samples can be examined.

Scientists who wish to use neutrons to study the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 or the disease COVID-19 will be granted special and privileged access.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Stephan Förster,
Telefon: +49 2461 61-85161
E-Mail: s.foerster@fz-juelich.de

Jülich Centre for Neutron Science (JCNS)

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (MLZ)

6. With Quantum Cloud against COVID-19

Together with several other international research institutions and companies, Forschungszentrum Jülich has joined an initiative of the Canadian quantum computer manufacturer D-Wave Systems Inc. to support researchers in developing solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. In this way, D-Wave is now providing free access to quantum computer systems for anyone working on responses to the pandemic.

Contact:

Prof. Thomas Lippert
Tel.: +49-2461-61-2200
E-Mail: th.lippert@fz-juelich.de

Prof. Kristel Michielsen
Tel.: +49 2461 61-2524

7. Research on smell and taste disorders with COVID-19

In response to anecdotal reports of the loss of smell and of taste in people who have tested positive for COVID-19, a group of international smell and taste researchers including Dr. Kathrin Ohla from the Jülich Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience have united to study how, when and why this is happening and what it can tell us about the Coronavirus. This inclusive group, called The Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers (GCCR), consists of open-science contributors: transdisciplinary scientists, clinicians, and patient advocates from all over the world.

More: https://gcchemosensr.org/

Further Information

Click here for more information on the projects and for links to interviews with Jülich experts.