Berkeley Lab COVID-19 Research

Berkeley Lab addresses the biggest scientific challenges with multidisciplinary teams of experts and five national user facilities accessible to collaborators worldwide. This approach is now being called into action to accelerate the world response to COVID-19, the infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Lab is focusing on areas in which its unique resources have the greatest impact. Research underway includes:

Beamline 4.2.2 at the Advanced Light Source

Supporting antiviral development with X-rays and nanoscience

The Advanced Light Source (ALS), which produces beams of X-rays and infrared light for experiments, is operating a limited number of beamlines to support academic and industry groups pursuing structural biology research on the key protein components of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This research may help quickly develop therapeutics to combat the infectious disease. Go here to learn how structural biology resources at DOE light sources can enable COVID-19-related research.

A Stanford-based group is working with the Molecular Foundry, a nanoscience research facility, to synthesize peptidomimetic polymers, or peptoids. These materials have the potential to serve as packages for antiviral agents, or as antiviral agents themselves, against SARS-CoV-2.



Cori system at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center

Harnessing high-performance computing and high-bandwidth networking

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is contributing resources to the federal COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. NERSC has set up queues running COVID-19 research projects on Cori, a supercomputer able to perform nearly 30 quadrillion calculations per second. Among several COVID-19 projects underway at NERSC, scientists at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope are running molecular dynamic simulations that apply to several SARS-CoV-2 research areas, including potential antiviral treatments. NERSC is also running a machine learning tool that quickly scans and searches tens of thousands of COVID-19 related research papers, and draws insights and connections that may otherwise not be apparent.

The Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the Department of Energy’s dedicated science network, is providing scientists high-bandwidth access to DOE supercomputer centers like NERSC, which is enabling a wide range of COVID-19 research efforts.



Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit

Scaling up potential antivirals, and leveraging bioengineering capabilities

The Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU), which works with industry at the early stages of manufacturing process development for new bioproducts, is supporting a company’s efforts to scale up a potential coronavirus antiviral.

The resources of the Agile BioFoundry, which has expertise in engineering and optimizing metabolic pathways, can be applied to the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics in the nation’s response to the pandemic.



A patterned surface of microelectrodes used to control the position, rate and mixing of droplets on a microfluidic device.

Improving COVID-19 testing capabilities

Berkeley Lab is part of a DOE working group that is coordinating R&D efforts related to COVID-19 across multiple national laboratories. One of the primary efforts is focused on testing capabilities. Lab scientists are leading teams focused on providing alternatives to the instruments and reagents used in current diagnostics, evaluating the performance of a digital microfluidic platform for COVID-19 detection, and developing computational approaches to develop and optimize COVID-19 diagnostic tests and other applications. The Lab is also participating in a team that is developing structure-based protein design for diagnostics.

Additional information

  • Status of Berkeley Lab's Five User Facilities and ABPDU


Webpage updated 5/06/20