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'The potential to stop the next pandemic': Georgia College chemists conduct research for a COVID-19 cure

They've been growing bacteria and sending samples off to other labs.

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Georgia College students are working on a small piece of the COVID-19 puzzle.

Chemists are working on discovering and developing a cure for the coronavirus. 

Not too long ago, Sydney Sellers couldn't picture herself spending hours at a time working in a chemistry lab.

"I was just like, 'I don't think this is for me,'" said Sellers. "I just like a lot of human interaction."

During her junior year of college, Georgia College Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Zoetewey asked her to be a part of his coronavirus research group.

Sellers said, "He came to me with the, 'We're going to start doing research on COVID-19,' the protein and stuff that goes into that and such. I said, 'Wow, that sounds amazing,' like, 'I want to be a part of that.'"

Sellers is one of three Georgia College students working with Zoetewey.

"I get to learn and grow in this and also be doing something that is very important for our world right now," said Sellers.

Georgia College chemists like Sellers have been growing bacteria and sending samples off to other labs.

Zoetewey said, "We don't research the whole virus. We're not looking at anything infectious. There is no danger to any of us here at the college. We are just looking at a tiny, tiny piece."

That tiny piece is "the spike protein."

By isolating and growing small fragments of the spike protein, Sellers and Zoetewey learn how the virus works and how its spike helps it attach to human cells.

"We know the before, we know the after, but we don't know what happens in the middle," said Zoetewey.

According to Zoetewey, the goal is to one day develop a cure.

"The research we are doing now has the potential to stop the next pandemic," said Zoetewey.

Zoetewey said, "At the end of the day, when we get everything solved and everything worked out, we're hoping to be able to develop a drug that would prevent you from getting the coronavirus in the first place."

That could take about two to three more years, but eventually, that drug would prevent the virus from invading human bodies.

Next year, Sellers will be able to present this experience as a part of her senior research. 

Her goal to one day do research for the CDC, but as the group heads home for the summer, Zoetewey plans on continuing their research all summer with the help of another Georgia College student.