Antiviral Resistance against Viral Mutation: Praxis and Policy for SARS-CoV-2
Computational and Mathematical Biophysics
Tools developed by Moderna, BioNTech/Pfizer, and Oxford/Astrazeneca, among others, provide universal solutions to previously problematic aspects of drug or vaccine delivery, uptake and toxicity, portending new tools across the medical sciences. A novel method is presented based on estimating protein backbone free energy via geometry to predict effective antiviral targets, antigens and vaccine cargos that are resistant to viral mutation. This method is reviewed and reformulated in light of the
... cent proliferation of structural data on the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and its mutations in multiple lineages. Key findings include: collections of mutagenic residues reoccur across strains, suggesting cooperative convergent evolution; most mutagenic residues do not participate in backbone hydrogen bonds; metastability of the glyco-protein limits the change of free energy through mutation thereby constraining selective pressure; and there are mRNA or virus-vector cargos targeting low free energy peptides proximal to conserved high free energy peptides providing specific recipes for vaccines with greater specificity than the full-spike approach. These results serve to limit peptides in the spike glycoprotein with high mutagenic potential and thereby provide a priori constraints on viral and attendant vaccine evolution. Scientific and regulatory challenges to nucleic acid therapeutic and vaccine development and deployment are finally discussed.