The Concern:

Many news reports are highlighting a novel strain of the virus causing Covid-19 and there seems to be a lot of drama created as flights to and from the UK are being cancelled.  What’s lacking from these reports is information about this strain and why should there be so much concern about it.

The following summary is given in a blog maintained by Andrew Rambaut of the ARTIC Network:

“Recently a distinct phylogenetic cluster (named lineage B.1.1.7) was detected within the COG-UK surveillance dataset. This cluster has been growing rapidly over the past 4 weeks and since been observed in other UK locations, indicating further spread.

Several aspects of this cluster are noteworthy for epidemiological and biological reasons and we report preliminary findings below. In summary:
The B.1.1.7 lineage accounts for an increasing proportion of cases in parts of England. The number of B.1.1.7 cases, and the number of regions reporting B.1.1.7 infections, are growing.
B.1.1.7 has an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the spike protein.
Three of these mutations have potential biological effects that have been described previously to varying extents:

  • Mutation N501Y is one of six key contact residues within the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and has been identified as increasing binding affinity to human and murine ACE2.
  • The spike deletion 69-70del has been described in the context of evasion to the human immune response but has also occurred a number of times in association with other RBD changes.
  • Mutation P681H is immediately adjacent to the furin cleavage site, a known location of biological significance.

The rapid growth of this lineage indicates the need for enhanced genomic and epidemiological surveillance worldwide and laboratory investigations of antigenicity and infectivity.”


The global scientific and technical response to the Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the power of 21st century medical science and technology.  Clearly, a goal, based upon that we’ve learned, can be and should be the elimination of future pandemics.  While Evrys Bio’s daily work is on the development of  therapeutics for a broad range of viral infections, we realize the importance of supporting efforts to prevent future devastating pandemics.  To that end, Evrys Bio wants to highlight the work of organizations much bigger that we could ever be that have taken on this challenge.

Strategic initiatives focused on the big picture are 1) The Global Virome Project and 2) The Trinity Challenge.

The Global Virome Project (GVP) – The GVP envisions a global collection of partnerships targeting the vast pool of unknown future viral threats through the development of a comprehensive ecologic and genetic database of virtually all naturally-occurring viruses. Through the GVP, unknown viruses will be isolated and their sequences shared in a publicly-accessible database.  This database and associated scientific publications will enable us to target high impact interventions to prevent spillover at high-risk animal human interfaces.  Similarly, the work of the GVP will yield benefits by accelerating the development of new diagnostics, vaccine technologies, medicines and risk mitigation strategies against emerging viral diseases.  GVP Ten Year Plan.

The Trinity Challenge (TC) – New technologies are driving rapid progress in vaccines and medicines and we are seeing unprecedented collaboration and effort between companies.  TC seeks to assure the world is better prepared for future pandemics.  COVID-19 has shown there is a clear need to better identify, better respond, and better recover from health emergencies.  TC’s focus is assuring that data and analytics is widely available to identify, generate, and provide insights which shall contribute to the goal of a world better protected from health emergencies.  TC is supported by high tech organizations varying from Plantir, Microsoft, Google, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BD, GSK and international universities.