EXSCALATE4CoV, the European project to counter COVID-19 through supercomputing
There are 18 partners from seven European countries, including Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste
EXSCALATE4CoV, the European project to counter COVID-19 through supercomputing

The European Commission has launched EXSCALATE4CoV, a project to fight the spread of COVID-19.
E4C has a twofold objective:

  • identify molecules effective against COVID-19
  • develop and consolidate an effective tool to counter future viral epidemics.

The project has been operational since the second half of February after the European Commission invited urgent tenders. The public-private consortium comprises 18 beneficiaries from seven EU countries. The Italian partners include Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, the supercomputing centre Cineca, the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases as well as the project coordinator Dompé Farmaceutici S.p.A.

The project is based on a platform called EXSCALATE (EXaSCale smArt pLatform Against paThogEns), currently the most powerful and efficient smart supercomputing platform in the world, developed by Dompé Farmaceutici. The Elettra team, led by Paola Storici, will focus on the study of proteins, thus contributing to the rational design of novel molecules to be used as potential drugs and validating the virtual models generated by the EXSCALATE platform. The EXSCALATE4CoV project will leverage the most powerful computing resources presently available in Europe to promote the development of smart drugs. The project will have two highly interconnected workstreams. One will rely on bioinformatic and chemoinformatic technologies and algorithms, while the second will be focused on a genomic, biochemical and biological approach.

Elettra’s structural biology laboratory and the XRD1 and XRD2 beamlines, devoted to bio-crystallography, will be working on the identification of the structures of proteins that are targets for potential drugs. More specifically, Elettra’s work does not involve the use of viruses or potentially pathogenic viral particles, but it will exclusively focus on the use of recombinant proteins. Such proteins are similar to those currently analysed at Elettra with the outstanding scientific expertise that makes its significant contribution to the project so relevant. Therefore, the proteins concerned will be crystallised and structurally analysed to study their properties when binding with the molecules screened as potential drugs, in order to understand the sites and the ways of interaction, to ultimately identify the treatment methods that are potentially most effective in fighting COVID-19.