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Sciprofile linkRobert C. Penner
Mathematics Online First Collections pp 1-7; doi:10.1007/16618_2020_13

Abstract: I am a mathematician by training, whose early work in topology, geometry and dynamics has found applications in high energy physics and theoretical biology. I have held the René Thom Chair in Mathematical Biology at the IHÉS since 2014, after having been a frequent visiting professor there for decades. Since June, 2019, I have been studying viral glycoproteins, leading to the two papers Backbone free energy estimator applied to viral glycoproteins and Conserved high free energy sites in human coronavirus spike glycoprotein backbones, both in the Journal of Computational Biology. In the first, I propose a geometric method to predict promising targets for antiviral drugs or vaccines across all viruses, and the sequel applies these methods specifically to human coronaviruses, thus pushing forward the current efforts to fight SARS CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. These works are surveyed in a Scientific American article from May 19, 2020. The IHÉS asked me to recount how a pure mathematician has found his way to work on virology, and here is that story.
Keywords: virus / Antiviral / Vaccines / BIOLOGY / viral glycoproteins / backbone / surveyed / Mathematician

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