CU Boulder researchers use yeast to help predict COVID-19 variants

COVID-19 Vaccine

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a method to predict future COVID-19 variants. They say the science shows promise for developing effective and longer-lasting booster shots.

CU Boulder scientists in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering are leaning on a simple kitchen ingredient to do just that.

“Baker’s yeast is great,” said associate professor Tim Whitehead.

A genetically modified version of baker’s yeast is being used. The surface of the yeast has been created to show some of the COVID-19 virus spike proteins — the part of the virus used to latch to human cells.

“We were able to identify the mutations,” said graduate student Irene Francino Urdanzi.

Francino Urdanzi is identifying mutations as fast as yeast grows — much faster than the natural evolution of the COVID-19 virus. The work, published in the journal “Cell Reports,” could help in the development of a universal vaccine for not just COVID-19 but also illnesses such as the common flu and HIV.

“This is one small piece of the amazing world-class research that goes on at the Boulder campus,” said Whitehead.

Predicting COVID-19 variants is necessary to ending the pandemic because it will produce long-lasting immunity.

“In my opinion, not having to take a flu shot every year, but just taking one and being immune … or having immunity for your whole life, that would be amazing,” said Francino Urdanzi.

For more information, visit CU’s website.

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