ABI Research: for visionaries

How Scientists are Using VR to Study the Coronavirus

The Information | June 10, 2021, 3:30 p.m.

Researcher Andrey Kovalevsky often dons an Oculus Rift S virtual reality headset as part of his work studying new ways to combat Covid-19. His research team is working on one of the many remaining mysteries surrounding the coronavirus: how to shut down one of the viral proteins that would stop it from reproducing. One of Kovalevsky’s tools is a VR app developed by the San Diego-based startup Nanome, which licenses its technology to scientists researching diseases and pharmaceutical companies trying to design new drugs. The startup is one of several that wants to prove VR is useful to scientists. Nanome raised $3 million earlier this year, bolstered in part by new urgency for drug development amid the pandemic. Kovalevsky, a senior R&D scientist at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said he started using Nanome three years ago. In addition to his Covid research, Kovalevsky has used Nanome while designing antidotes against nerve agents and pesticides. “Without VR, it is difficult to comprehend the three-dimensional of a protein,” said Kovalevsky.

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