Chinese biotech company looks to help global monkeypox drug development


Shanghai Zelixir Biotech Company Ltd. has predicted more than 600 structures and added functional annotations of proteins from monkeypox virus proteomes, which is the complete set of proteins present at a given time in the cell.

The company hopes the predicted structures will help the global quest to develop monkeypox vaccines.

Monkeypox cases have grown in Europe and the U.S. in recent months. In figures published on May 29, the World Health Organization (WHO) said since May 13, monkeypox has been reported to the WHO from 23 member states that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across four WHO regions.

As of May 26, 257 laboratory confirmed cases and around 120 suspected cases have been reported to the WHO.

The disease is endemic to central and west Africa, and common symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle aches, and a rash. The condition is typically mild, but can threaten pregnant women, young children, and people with weakened immune systems. The virus can spread through large respiratory droplets or by coming into close contact with a contagious skin rash. 

Drug discovery hopes

The predicted protein structures are AI-generated, and based on the complete sequence of the genome of the epidemic strain in May 2022, the whole proteome of the 2018 West African virus strain, and the whole proteome of the 1996 Congo basin virus strain.

Using its own algorithm, Zelixir said it provides annotations for all the 600+ predicted structures and managed to label the small molecules binding regions with high confidence for the 3D structure of each protein. 

The detailed forecasts and corresponding functional predictions are available on the company’s website.  

“We hope our work can accelerate the development of monkeypox vaccines and drug discovery. We will keep updating and publishing our new research findings as our research progresses,” said Dr. Sheng Wang, Zelixir Biotech CEO.

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