Since early on in the pandemic, the spike protein, or S protein, of SARS-CoV-2 has been the focus of most COVID-19 treatment research. Scientists at OSU are instead focusing their research on targeting the nucleocapsid protein, or N protein.
Coronaviruses, such as the one that causes the disease COVID-19, are RNA viruses, meaning the RNA holds the genetic instructions the virus uses to get living cells to make more of itself. The nucleocapsid protein’s job is to stick to the RNA and protect it.
“If we interfere with how the RNA of the N [protein] protects the RNA, then the RNA can be cleaved, can be cut into pieces, will not work and then we don’t have replication or transmission of the virus,” Barbar said.
“All the worries that we have now about variants and if the vaccine works against the variants is because we’re focusing on the S protein, but when we start focusing on the N protein, the N protein does not vary as much. So, the vaccines that are developed would have a more lasting effect,” Barbar said.