how can this help scientists?
We are looking for a small sequence - 16 letters - called an epitope, among 500,000 letters.
The formula we’re looking for is only a small part of the virus. When injected in our bodies as a vaccine, it causes an immune response without causing an illness.
For a computer, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
But humans can spot a pattern in seconds.
Viruses are made of protein sequences, each protein sequence is formed by 50-100 amino-acids. Each amino acid is like an individual bead, strung together, they form a protein just like in jewellery individual beads form a necklace.
When a virus infects us, our immune system releases defence cells. These cells scan organisms in our bloodstream looking for a specific part called an epitope. An epitope is like a barcode identifying if the organism belongs to the body or if it is an intruder.
To teach our bodies to recognise specific epitopes as belonging to a virus, we need to find a formula for that epitope, create it in the laboratory and then inject it into our bodies as a vaccine. Our defence cells can then scan this epitope’s “barcode”, recognise it is an intruder and prepare the defence system for a fight in case a real virus enters our bodies.