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Novel coronavirus 2019: in-silico vaccine design and drug discovery
Kumar A., Saxena A., Lee G., Kashyap A., Jyothsna G., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2020. 78 pp.  Type: Book (978-3-030344-95-5)
Date Reviewed: Feb 5 2021

The two urgent goals for overcoming the COVID-19 virus are (1) finding effective treatments for patients already infected, and (2) developing vaccines for the prevention of infection. The speed needed to achieve these goals requires the use of computational (in silico) tools.

The book is short--only 78 pages. Its ten chapters are divided into two larger conceptual sets. The first group is on the structure and characterization of the virus. There are listings of the sequences of important proteins, and comparisons to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus of several years earlier. A single protein, ORF1ab, is identified as the primary protein of interest; its domains are characterized in more detail.

The second part of the book is clinically oriented. It includes chapters on the docking of drugs (like remdesivir) with the virus’s RNA polymerase that builds copies of itself, traditional herbal medicines, the structure of the COVID spike protein and the ACE2 receptor in the target cell, the efficacy of plasma therapy, the development of vaccines responsive to different antigenic regions in the ORF1ab protein, and the development of rapid diagnostic test kits.

There are several problems with this book. The COVID-19 pandemic is not quite a year old at the time of writing this review. When one considers the timeline required in preparing a manuscript, including printing and distributing it, the content of the book is only a snapshot of what was known at the beginning of the pandemic. The research in the primary peer-reviewed literature was in its earliest stages as compared to now. Much has been learned, though many questions remain. The virus is mutating with unknown implications. There is disagreement on the efficacy of different treatments. Vaccines are now available with emergency approval, and people are being inoculated. Events have overtaken the content of the book.

The presentation seems hurried and sketchy. There is little follow through on what the computational tools are capable of doing and what can be inferred from the protein sequences. The graphics are hard to read. The book is simply premature. There will be plenty of interest in a more complete book on the virus, including tools of discovery, treatments, and vaccines, after there is a more complete record of the science that has been published in the professional literature.

Reviewer:  Anthony J. Duben Review #: CR147181 (2106-0146)
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