WORCESTER, Mass. – A discovery by a local professor could lead to new antiviral therapies for COVID-19 and quicker development of vaccines.

WPI professor Dmitry Korkin looked at the structural details of the virus, which revealed an elliptical shape which "breathes," or changes shape, as it moves in the body.

He and others fed genetic sequences and real-world data into a super-computer. It produced a model of the virus' outer shell, which had been beyond the reach of even the most powerful microscopes until now.

"This viral shell, once we know how it's constructed, it can actually be used, it can be mimicked to create a new type of treatment using nanoparticles,” Korkin said. “You can create nanoparticles that look like those shells and you can actually include some alternatives to those spiked proteins. So those nanoparticles bind the whole cell, preventing the real viruses to interact with the whole cell."

The findings are three years in the making and built upon Korkin’s work in the early days of the pandemic.