26. May 2020

DECTRIS X-ray detectors in the fight against COVID-19


All over the world, different research groups are launching projects to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We at DECTRIS are proud to see our x-ray detectors help them collect the data needed to find a cure and stop the spread of the virus. 139 out of 160 structures related to coronavirus were identified with EIGER or PILATUS detectors. 

The very first vaccine took centuries to develop:  it was against the variola virus which caused smallpox. In the 18th century, a milder form of the disease called cowpox was used to obtain immunity against deadly smallpox in humans. This is why we call it a "vaccine": from the Latin word “vaccinus”, which got its name from “vacca”, which means “cow”. Today in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, research advances at an unprecedented speed. Numerous projects were launched at synchrotrons and laboratories all over the world to learn as much as possible about SARS-CoV-2 and to find a possible cure.

Such a project was initiated by DESY in collaboration with the University of Hamburg and the Fraunhofer Institute. Using X-ray diffraction, researchers collected information about how the coronavirus’ main protease interacts with 6,000 compounds, which are either approved drugs for other diseases or in clinical trials. If any of the compounds have a desirable effect on the virus, the currently available clinical data will be able to speed up the drug development process.

The beamline P11 at PETRA III at DESY, where the most of the work was done, is equipped with a DECTRIS PILATUS3 6M x-ray detector. It is not the only project where DECTRIS detectors are involved. Research groups at the Diamond Light Source (DLS), ESRF, APS, and other synchrotrons also run research programs to fight COVID-19. Many groups dedicate their efforts to solving the structures of the coronavirus proteins. Until now, 160 structures were published in the Protein Data Bank (PDB), 139 of them were solved using DECTRIS EIGER or PILATUS detectors. We are very proud to be a part of this endeavor. 

Related publications: