We will be updating this page regularly. Last updated: January 21, 2021.

HHMI works every day to discover and share new scientific knowledge. Today, our mission takes on new urgency, as our scientists, educators, and staff contribute to the fight against COVID-19. This essential work includes efforts in diagnostic testing, understanding the basic biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, modeling epidemiology, and developing potential therapies or vaccines. Our science education teams are equipping educators with online teaching resources and supporting high-quality science journalism. Behind the scenes, our operations staff is busy helping to make it all happen. Here are some of our stories.

Researchers engineered cells to carry either a protein (green) from SARS-CoV-2 or its human target ACE2 (magenta). When near each other, the cells’ membranes fused. Researchers think a similar process lets the virus slip into cells. Credit: D. Sanders et al./bioRxiv.org

HHMI Investigator Clifford Brangwynne

@brangwynnelab

People taking cholesterol-lowering drugs may fare better than others if they catch the novel coronavirus. A new study hints at why: the virus relies on the fatty molecule to get past the cell’s protective membrane. Read more »

Scientists found traces of SARS-CoV-2 (green) in cells lining people’s intestines three months after infection. Antibodies may evolve in response to these residual viral traces. Credit: C. Gaebler et al./bioRxiv.org 2020

HHMI Investigator Michel Nussenzweig

People who have recovered from coronavirus can make potent antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 that evolve in the months after infection. These antibodies may be evolving in response to residual viral antigen hidden in the gut. Read more »

Infection with the novel coronavirus (gold spheres) can cause a range of symptoms. Some people with severe cases of COVID-19 have genetic mutations in key immunity genes or antibodies that attack the immune system. Credit: NIAID

HHMI Investigator Jean-Laurent Casanova

@casanova_lab

Two new studies offer an explanation for why COVID-19 cases can be so variable. A subset of patients has mutations in key immunity genes; other patients have auto-antibodies that target the same components of the immune system. Both circumstances could contribute to severe forms of the disease. Read more »

Researchers designed a three-part molecule (pink) that nestles into the coronavirus spike protein (blue), pinning it into a conformation that makes it unable to stick to ACE2, the receptor through which the virus gains entry into human cells. Top view and side view shown. Credit: Walter and Manglik Labs/UCSF/HHMI

HHMI Investigator Peter Walter

Researchers have designed a molecule that sticks tightly to the coronavirus spike protein, preventing the virus from infecting cells. The molecule might someday be used in an aerosolized drug to treat or prevent COVID-19. Read more »

The novel coronavirus’s RNA genome forms a tangle of unique structures. A new map could help scientists understand how these structures contribute to infection and disease. Credit: Illustration by James Yang

HHMI Investigator Anna Marie Pyle

The novel coronavirus uses structures within its RNA to infect cells. Scientists have now identified these configurations, generating the most comprehensive atlas to date of SARS-CoV-2’s genome. Read more »

SARS-CoV-2 infects human cells by binding to a protein called ACE2 (grey). In this 3D model, dark red represents parts of the virus’s receptor binding domain where mutations greatly influence binding. Credit: Tyler Starr/Bloom Lab

HHMI Investigator Jesse Bloom

@jbloom_lab

Scientists have analyzed every possible mutation to one key part of the coronavirus. The data could help guide vaccine and drug development and hint at how the virus might spread. Read more »

Testing for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (shown here in an electron microscopy image), can help scientists trace the pathogen’s spread and stop the chain of transmission. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

HHMI Investigator Robert Tjian

@tjiandarzacq

Research labs are racing to develop innovative testing methods and overcome the bottlenecks to more widespread testing, which is crucial to controlling the spread of the disease. Read more »

A potential COVID-19 treatment targets the runaway immune response seen in some severely ill patients. Researchers hope a common prescription drug will block immune cells from releasing excessive quantities of inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines, depicted here as small purple specks. Credit: scientificanimations.com / Wikimedia Commons

HHMI Investigator Bert Vogelstein

A clinical trial in people with the new coronavirus is testing a drug that may halt an overactive immune response before it ramps up. Read more »

SARS-CoV-2 can only get into cells that have the receptor ACE2 (white) and an enzyme known as a protease (red or green). Researchers found both molecules in cells lining tiny air sacs in the lungs (above). Credit: Tata Lab, Duke University

HHMI Investigator Aviv Regev

The new coronavirus invades cells that sport certain molecules on their surfaces. A network of researchers realized they already had the data to identify these cells. Read more »

Screenshot of How We Feel App

HHMI Investigator Feng Zhang

@zhangf

Researchers and a volunteer team from Pinterest developed How We Feel, an app that lets users report symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Read more »

SARS-CoV-2 virus

HHMI Investigator Kevan Shokat

@kevansf

A map of interactions between the novel coronavirus and human proteins is helping scientists identify drugs that might work as therapeutics. Read more »

Nouran Abdelfattah, a researcher in Steve Elledge's lab working on COVID-19

HHMI Investigator Stephen Elledge

Using a research assay called VirScan, scientists plan to study how antibodies from people who have had the disease attack the virus. Read more »

Coronavirus-blocking protein design

HHMI Investigator David Baker

@foldit scientific discovery game

Using a free computer game called Foldit, researchers are enlisting the help of citizen scientists to design drugs that could stop the novel coronavirus from infecting human cells. Read more »

An electron microscope image of the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2

HHMI Investigator Jean-Laurent Casanova

@casanova_lab

A new international project aims to enroll 500 COVID-19 patients to search for genetic mutations that make some people more vulnerable to severe infection. Read more »

Free Online Resources for Biology Courses

BioInteractive offers resources and strategies to support the move to online teaching and learning. These include materials about viruses, stories of scientists combatting epidemics, and activities for lab sections.

Visit BioInteractive

Support for Science Journalism

Our support of the Associated Press enables additional coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, we’re providing support to the National Geographic Society for its new emergency fund for coronavirus coverage.

HHMI scientists discuss COVID-19