QBI Coronavirus Research Group

Twenty-two leading laboratories, involving hundreds of scientists within the Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) at the University of California,San Francisco (UCSF), have come together to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. The newly formed QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG) have pooled their expertise in biochemistry, virology, structural, computational, chemical and systems biology to understand how the virus hijacks human cells for its own replication. 

David Agard, PhD, is focused on trying to understand the molecular basis of how complex machinery in the cell functions. His particular take on it is to try to resolve the atomic structures of key molecules and to figure out how they work from that, while also looking at where they go wrong in disease. 

Charles Craik, PhD, uses chemistry to answer important biological questions at the interface between biology, medicine and pharmacy. He identifies the roles and regulates the activity of proteases associated with infectious diseases, cancer and development.

James Fraser, PhD, looks at proteins, macromolecules within cells, and tries to determine what structures they take on, what their shapes are and how they move between structures as they execute their functions within cells to quantify how these perturbations impact protein function and organismal fitness. 

Danica Fujimori, PhD, works on the identification of new potential drug targets to determine the context in which proteins can serve as drug targets, and to identify small molecules that could act to stop pathogenic proteins from acting in ways to cause disease. 

Jason Gestwicki, PhD, is interested in molecular chaperones, protein homeostasis and protein misfolding disorders. To approach the big questions in this area, he uses a chemical biology strategy that includes the discovery and optimization of new chemical inhibitors to acutely perturb chaperone functions, revealing how these systems normally protect from cancer and neurodegeneration as well as other diseases. 

John Gross, PhD, investigates molecular machines that coordinate gene expression or antiviral immunity. His research areas include RNA decay enzymes that act in mRNA quality control and gene regulatory pathways, and nucleic acid based immune systems that protect animals from viruses and neutralization of these systems by viral accessory proteins.

Matthew Jacobson, PhD, focuses on developing new computational methods for drug discovery, as well as general tools that can be applied to almost every area of drug discovery. His software is used by essentially all of the major pharmaceutical companies. 

Natalia Jura, PhD, researches what regulates growth signals in a cell and looks at how cells grow under normal situations when they are healthy, and then what goes wrong during diseases. She looks at the molecular machines, the proteins themselves, and how they change in response to the binding of ligands.

Tanja Kortemme, PhD, develops methods to engineer biological molecules, proteins that have new biological functions. She does so by developing computational algorithms that help create detailed models of these proteins so that they can be designed at atom-level detail.

Nevan Krogan, PhD, focuses on developing tools that allows one to globally study the function of genes and proteins and how they work together, and targets genes that are in many disease areas in an effort to help find new therapies for diseases. 

Shaeri Mukherjee, PhD,  elucidates how intracellular bacterial pathogens manipulate Rab function to promote their virulence and to uncover fundamental principles of membrane traffic. To accomplish this, she utilizes the intracellular pathogen Legionella pneumophila as a model, which in turn can be applied to other disease states.

Geeta Narlikar, PhD, studies chromatin and the many processes involved in its regulation. She is an expert in the fields of epigenetic regulation and genome organization, and studies how the folding and compartmentalization of our genome is regulated to generate the many cell types that make up our body.

Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, is interested in the molecular mechanisms of viral pathogenesis. She focuses on HIV-1 and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Both are important public health problems and share common traits including high propensities to establish chronic infections and a lack of efficient vaccines. Her HIV efforts focus on viral transcription and latency as remaining barriers to viral eradication. 

Oren Rosenberg, MD, PhD, studies and treats infectious diseases. His goal is to discover and exploit molecular vulnerabilities in bacteria in order to design faster, cheaper, less toxic and more effective therapeutics to treat life-threatening infections.

Davide Ruggero, PhD, works on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which impairments in accurate control of mRNA translation, cell growth, and overall cellular protein synthesis rates lead to human disease and cancer. 

Andrej Sali, PhD, is interested in describing structures of proteins and their complexes, how the systems work, and how we can modulate their functions with other molecules. He uses information that comes from different experimental methods, computation methods and statistical analyses. 

Brian Shoichet, PhD, researches the discovery of new molecules to modulate drug targets, and trying to de-orphanize receptors in the body. He tries to discover molecules that will inform the use of receptors with currently unknown functions.

Kevan Shokat, PhD, seeks to uncover fundamental principles of cell signaling that require the development of new chemical tools. He tries to find new drugs that treat different kinds of diseases, like cancer and neurodegeneration, and viral infections.

Robert Stroud, MA, PhD, studies the molecular basis of biological function. He is particularly interested in transporters that transport nutrients across the membranes of biological cells to incorporate essential nutrients, and transporters that are co-opted to eliminate drugs and thus provide for drug resistance.

Jack Taunton, PhD, develops small molecules to try to understand how cells work and how to intervene in various disease processes, such as cancer and autoimmune disease. 

Kliment Verba, PhD, is a QBI Fellow who specializes in structurally analyzing protein complexes using CryoEM. He focuses on understanding how proteins accomplish their work, by first understanding their molecular structure. 

Jim Wells, PhD, is interested in how cells change in cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and blood borne cancers, and how they can be treated with antibodies. His antibodies are then cross-referenced in various disease states. 

New York Times on March 17, 2020: QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG) involving 22 leading laboratories at UCSF have assembled to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, fully recognizing that no single approach will be sufficient to make a dent in what has now become a pandemic. Read here.

Women scientists from the QBI Coronavirus Research Group (QCRG) speak to the sense of urgency that inspired such a multidisciplinary team to gather and strategically fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch 2-min video.

ABC News on March 18, 2020: QBI scientists are collaboratively testing whether existing FDA-approved drugs can fight novel coronavirus. Watch the news segment here.

The Conversation on March 20, 2020: COVID-19 treatment might already exist in old drugs – we’re using pieces of the coronavirus itself to find them. Read here.

Scientific American on March 20, 2020: How COVID-19 Drug Hunters Spot Virus-Fighting Compounds. Read here.

KCBS Radio San Francisco on March 20, 2020: EXCLUSIVE: UCSF Coronavirus Research Identifies Potentially Useful Drugs. Listen here.

Global Biodefense on March 21, 2020: Why Don’t We Have Drugs to Treat COVID-19 and How Long Will It Take to Develop Them? Read here.

Good Morning America on March 22, 2020: Scientists across the globe are working to find a treatment for COVID-19 Watch here.

bioRxiv on March 22, 2020: “Our paper is out on bioarchive describing our sars2-human protein protein interaction map and drug predictions from the data. It was a honor to work with so many fantastic scientists around the world. -Nevan” Read here.

The New York Times on March 22, 2020: “Scientists Identify 69 Drugs to Test Against the Coronavirus” Read here.

CBC Radio: The Current on March 23, 2020: “Today on The Current: We look at some of the drugs and treatment options being researched in the fight against COVID-19, and whether established drugs could be repurposed. ” Listen here.

KSRO on March 23, 2020: “Pat talks with Nevan Krogan, Professor of Cellular Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF, about coronavirus treatments, research, drug trials, timelines and urgency. ” Listen here.

French consulate in SF on March 24, 2020: “A French American scientific partnership to fight the coronavirus. Today French Consul to San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Consul General of France in San Francisco, interviewed QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD on the collaboration with Institut Pasteur to identify existing drugs that could be used against the virus. ” Watch here.

CNN FACTS VS. FICTION with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on March 25, 2020: Searching for Treatments. Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction. There is currently no proven treatment or cure for Covid-19, but scientists around the globe are working to find one. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains some of the drug names floating around and what we know about them. ” Listen here.

CBC Radio: Blue Sky with Garth Materie On March 25, 2020: A live interview and Q & A of QBI Director Nevan Krogan, PhD, who leads the QCRG effort. This interview is in his home county of Saskatchewan in Canada, where people called in with pertinent questions to understand more about COVID-19, its spread, the science and what is coming next. Nevan Krogan segment as of minute 13:00.” Listen here.

UCSF On March 25, 2020: Unveiling How COVID-19 Hijacks Our Cells to Help Rush New Drugs to Patients: UCSF-led Rapid-Response Research Team Takes an Unconventional Approach to Fighting Viruses.” Read here.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel On March 26, 2020: Scientists identify 69 drugs that could slow or stop coronavirus, but more testing remains.” Read here.

Chemical and Engineering News On March 26, 2020: Protein mapping finds 69 potential treatments for COVID-19.” Read here.

Chemistry World On March 27, 2020: Potent coronavirus drug candidate designed using 3D structure of key viral enzyme.” Read here.

Science On April 2, 2020: These drugs don’t target the coronavirus—they target us.” Read here.

Roche On April 2, 2020: Researching the novel coronavirus in the urgent search for solutions.” Read here.

For media and press inquiries or if you would like to speak to one of our experts on COVID-19 and our efforts, please contact us:


Peter Farley, (415) 317-3781
Jason Alvarez, (628) 221-1501

We need visionary funders to support this unprecedented collaboration of visionary scientists. It may be that this human tragedy is what finally unifies us to find a solution together.

If you would like to discuss a further donation to QCRG to accelerate the discovery of a solution to Covid-19, please contact Michelle Clark, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University Development at (415) 476-5825 or email