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From the College of Natural Sciences
Texas Coronavirus Scientists Win Award for Research with ‘Great Societal Benefit’

Texas Coronavirus Scientists Win Award for Research with ‘Great Societal Benefit’

The world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society has announced that Jason McLellan, a University of Texas at Austin associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, and Daniel Wrapp, a graduate student fellow, were among seven winners of this year's Golden Goose Award. Supported by members of Congress from both parties and a...
Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

The number of virus strains present in each zip code in Houston during the second wave of COVID-19 cases in summer 2020. Number of strains is represented by a spectrum of colors from blue (0 strains) to red (50 strains). Credit: Houston Methodist/University of Texas at Austin.

A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal mBIO, that mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry. It's the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the U.S. to date.

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

The College of Natural Sciences has recently recruited and supported top leaders among a new generation of scientists through the Stengl-Wyer Endowment – the largest endowment in the college's history. These postdoctoral scholars and graduate students are working on research projects that will promote a deeper understanding of climate change, protect natural habitats and maintain biodiversity in Texas and beyond.

Why Some Cancers May Respond Poorly to Key Drugs Discovered

Why Some Cancers May Respond Poorly to Key Drugs Discovered

Patients with BRCA1/2 mutations are at higher risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancers that can be aggressive when they develop – and, in many cases, resistant to lifesaving drugs. Now scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and Ajou University in South Korea have identified a driver of the drug resistance that can make a life or death difference for patients with these cancers.

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response.

Researchers Discover Key Mechanism Cells Use to Harness Energy

Researchers Discover Key Mechanism Cells Use to Harness Energy

Scientists have known for some time that NAD+ (oxidized nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), a key molecule involved in the function of all cellular life, is needed to help cells harness energy. What scientists didn't fully understand until now is how human cells compartmentalized intracellular NAD+ or that – as a new paper out today in the journal Nature suggests – the process may be able to be controlled to help address aging and diseases, from neurodegeneration to cancer.

Matching CRISPR to the Job Improves the Safety, Efficiency of the Gene-Editing Tool

Matching CRISPR to the Job Improves the Safety, Efficiency of the Gene-Editing Tool

One of the biggest scientific advances of the last decade is getting better thanks to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin; the University of California, Berkeley; and Korea University. The team has developed a new tool to help scientists choose the best available gene-editing option for a given job, making the technology called CRISPR safer, cheaper and more efficient. The tool is outlined in a paper out today in Nature Biotechnology.

UT Austin Will Test More Than 5,000 a Week for COVID-19

UT Austin Will Test More Than 5,000 a Week for COVID-19

Samples are loaded into a liquid handling robot at the High Throughput Testing Core (HTTC) on campus. Photo by Vivian Abagiu.

When the novel coronavirus began spreading across the United States this spring, The University of Texas at Austin quickly purchased three state-of-the-art robots and assembled additional equipment capable of processing hundreds of COVID-19 test samples every day.

State Cancer Research Grant Awarded to Molecular Bioscientist

State Cancer Research Grant Awarded to Molecular Bioscientist

Cancer research is getting a boost at The University of Texas at Austin as researchers in the College of Natural Sciences and Dell Medical School received grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Some Bacteria Sacrifice Themselves to Protect their Brethren from Antibiotics

Some Bacteria Sacrifice Themselves to Protect their Brethren from Antibiotics

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered how some cells within a bacterial swarm will sacrifice themselves so that other cells in the swarm have a better chance of surviving onslaught by antibiotics, in a discovery important for efforts to address antibiotic resistance.

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Oncometopia hamiltoni leafhopper insect. Photo by Alex Wild, used with permission.

They may be tiny, but leafhoppers have a super power: they secrete a substance that makes their bodies water-repellant and anti-reflective, which may help them blend in with their surroundings and escape surface tension. Symbiotic bacteria living in the leafhoppers appear to assist in producing the substance and its soccer-ball-shaped nanostructures called brochosomes, but the process is something of a mystery.

Locking Down Shape-Shifting Spike Protein Aids Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

Locking Down Shape-Shifting Spike Protein Aids Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

An engineered protein developed by UT Austin researchers and their colleagues is a key element of COVID-19 vaccines currently in human trials by Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

The experimental vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 that was the first to enter human trials in the United States has been shown to elicit neutralizing antibodies and a helpful T-cell response with the aid of a carefully engineered spike protein that mimics the infection-spreading part of the virus.

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

Jason S. McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences, left, and graduate student Daniel Wrapp, right, work in the McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Monday Feb. 17, 2020.

Responding to a need to quickly develop billions of doses of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, a scientific team at The University of Texas at Austin has successfully redesigned a key protein from the coronavirus, and the modification could enable much faster and more stable production of vaccines worldwide.

Discovery about Hep C Drug Offers Insights for Coronavirus Treatments

Discovery about Hep C Drug Offers Insights for Coronavirus Treatments

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered how a certain drug is able to stop viral spread for patients with Hepatitis C, and the finding may have important implications for drug developers seeking to stop other RNA viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Power of DNA to Store Information Gets an Upgrade

Power of DNA to Store Information Gets an Upgrade

A team of interdisciplinary researchers has discovered a new technique to store information in DNA – in this case "The Wizard of Oz," translated into Esperanto – with unprecedented accuracy and efficiency. The technique harnesses the information-storage capacity of intertwined strands of DNA to encode and retrieve information in a way that is both durable and compact. The technique is described in a paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.