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CSL Behring and SAB Biotherapeutics Join Forces to Deliver New Potential COVID-19 Therapeutic – MDJOnline.com
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. and SIOUX FALLS, S.D., April 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Global biotherapeutics leader, CSL Behringand innovative human antibody development company SAB Biotherapeutics(SAB) announced today their partnership to combat the coronavirus pandemic with the rapid development of SAB-185, a COVID-19 therapeutic candidate on track for clinical evaluation by early summer. The partnership joins the forces of CSL Behring's leading protein science capabilities with SAB's novel immunotherapy platform capable of rapidly developing and producing natural, highly-targeted, high-potency, fully human polyclonal antibodies without the need for blood plasma donations from recovered patients.
The therapeutic candidate, SAB-185, is generated from SAB's proprietary DiversitAb platform producing large volumes of human polyclonal antibodies targeted specifically to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Driven by advanced genetic engineering and antibody science, SAB's novel approach, leveraging genetically engineered cattle to produce fully human antibodies, enables a scalable and reliable production of targeted, higher potency neutralizing antibody product than has been previously possible. SAB's approach has expedited the rapid development of a novel immunotherapy for COVID-19 deploying the same natural immune response to fight the disease as recovered patients, but with a much higher concentration of targeted antibodies.
"COVID-19 is a nearly unprecedented public health crisis," said CSL Behring's Executive Vice President and Head of R&D Bill Mezzanotte, M.D. "That's why we're combining our leading capabilities in plasma product development and immunology with external collaborators to help find multiple, rapid solutions. In the near-term, SAB Biotherapeutics' novel immunotherapy platform provides a new and innovative solution to rapidly respond without the need for human plasma adding a different dimension to the industry-wide plasma-derived hyperimmune alliance effort we recently launched for the COVID-19 crisis. For future pandemics, SAB's platform may allow us to even more rapidly respond to patients' needs."
"Our targeted high-potency immunotherapies leverage the native immune response thereby providing a highly-specific match against the complexity, diversity and mutation of a disease," said Eddie J. Sullivan, PhD, SAB Biotherapeutics president, CEO and co-founder. "Our partnership with CSL Behring shifts our development trajectory to more rapidly scale-up and delivery of our highly targeted and potent COVID-19 therapeutic candidate, and deploy our unique capabilities to help combat this crisis. We have a successful preclinical track record for addressing infectious disease targets including Ebola, MERS, and SARS with our proprietary platform and appreciate that this collaboration with a global biopharmaceutical powerhouse will magnify the potential impact of a COVID-19 immunotherapy and provide an important framework for establishing sustainable solutions for the future."
CSL Behring has provided seed funding to offset some initial development costs that were funded by SAB in good faith, responding to the global pandemic as quickly as possible. SAB has already secured approximately $7.2 million in funding through an interagency agreement with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO - CBRND) and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)to support SAB to complete manufacturing and preclinical studies. CSL Behring will then commit its clinical, regulatory, manufacturing and supply chain expertise and resources to deliver the therapeutic to the market as soon as possible, on terms to be agreed with SAB.
Earlier this year, the companies announceda collaboration to investigate SAB's platform technology as a new source for human immunoglobulin G (IgG) and the potential for new therapies to treat challenging autoimmune, infectious and idiopathic diseases by leveraging SAB's DiversitAb platform.
About CSL Behring CSL Behring is a global biotherapeutics leader driven by its promise to save lives. Focused on serving patients' needs by using the latest technologies, we develop and deliver innovative therapies that are used to treat coagulation disorders, primary immune deficiencies, hereditary angioedema, inherited respiratory disease, and neurological disorders. The company's products are also used in cardiac surgery, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn. CSL Behring operates one of the world's largest plasma collection networks, CSL Plasma. The parent company, CSL Limited (ASX:CSL;USOTC:CSLLY), headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, employs more than 26,000 people, and delivers its life-saving therapies to people in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit http://www.cslbehring.com and for inspiring stories about the promise of biotechnology, visit Vita http://www.cslbehring.com/Vita
About SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc.SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. (SAB), headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D. is a clinical-stage, biopharmaceutical development company advancing a new class of immunotherapies leveraging fully human polyclonal antibodies. Utilizing some of the most complex genetic engineering and antibody science in the world, SAB has developed the only platform that can rapidly produce natural, highly targeted, high-potency, immunotherapies at commercial scale. The company is advancing programs in autoimmunity, infectious diseases, inflammation and exploratory oncology. SAB is rapidly progressing on a new therapeutic for COVID-19, SAB-185, a fully human polyclonal antibodies targeted to SARS-CoV-2 without using human donors. SAB-185 is expected to be ready for evaluation as early as summer 2020. The company was also recently awarded a $27 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to leverage its unique capabilities as part of a Rapid Response Antibody Program, valued at up to $27 million. For more information visit: http://www.sabbiotherapeutics.com.
Planet Earth Report Scientists Stranded at Sea to Unknown Limits of Human Athletic Performance – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel
Planet Earth Report provides descriptive links to headline news by leading science journalists about the extraordinary discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species.
We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance Genetic engineering will bring us new Bolts and Shaqs. For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, writes Stephen Hsu for Nautil.us, also known as track-town USA for its long tradition in track and field. Each summer high-profile meets like the United States National Championships or Olympic Trials would bring world-class competitors to the University of Oregons Hayward Field. It was exciting to bump into great athletes at the local cafe or ice cream shop, or even find myself lifting weights or running on a track next to them. One morning I was shocked to be passed as if standing still by a woman running 400-meter repeats. Her training pace was as fast as I could run a flat out sprint over a much shorter distance.
Significance of Pangolin Viruses in Human Pandemic Remains Murky Scientists havent found evidence that the new coronavirus jumped from pangolins to people, but they do host very similar viruses, writes James Gorman for the New York Times. Pangolins, once suspected as the missing link from bats to humans in the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, may not have played that role, some scientists say, although the animals do host viruses that are similar to the new human coronavirus.
The Pandemic Has Grounded Humankind Space missions around the world are on holda poignant reminder of how COVID-19 has upended civilization, writes Marina Koren for The Atlantic.
The spread of the coronavirus will be exponential which is bad. But its inevitable decline will also be exponential, which is good, writes Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at SETI.org. In the case of the coronavirus, the growth in the number of infected persons will inevitably be exponential, at least for a while. Thats because the rate of new infections clearly depends on the number of people who are already contagious. The resulting tally of the infected will increase very rapidly as is typical of exponential growth. Note that its not that the number is large, but only the behavior of the growth rate that merits the designation exponential.
Scientists Are Stuck on an Ice-Locked Ship in the Arctic Due to Coronavirus Organizers of the MOSAiC expedition are determining the best way to bring a relief crew to the ship without spreading the virus, which could leave roughly 100 scientists and crew on board for an extra six weeks, reports Maddie Stone for Motherboard Science.
Pablo Escobars Hippos Fill a Hole Left Since Ice Age Extinctions -Invasive herbivore mammals seem to restore functions missing in some food webs and ecosystems since the Pleistocene era, writes Asher Elbein for the New York Times. When Pablo Escobar died in 1993, the Colombian drug kingpins four adult African hippopotamuses were forgotten. But the fields and ponds along the Magdalena River suited them. One estimate puts their current population at 50 to 80 animals: By 2050 there may be anywhere from 800 to 5,000 in a landscape that never before knew hippos.
Stranded at sea cruise ships around the world are adrift as ports turn them away, reports The Guardian. A Guardian analysis of ship tracking data has found that, as of Thursday, at least ten ships around the world carrying nearly 10,000 passengers are still stuck at sea after having been turned away from their destination ports in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the ships are facing increasingly desperate medical situations, including one carrying hundreds of American, Canadian, Australian and British passengers, currently off the coast of Ecuador and seeking permission to dock in Florida.
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Guest Post by Michael A. Alvarez
In April 2000, Bill Joy (co-founder of Sun Microsystems) published an article in Wired magazine entitled Why the Future Doesnt Need Us. In it, he argues that "Our most powerful 21st-century technologiesrobotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechare threatening to make humans an endangered species." At the time, his thesis and accompanying forecast were alarming, coming from such a credible source.
"The Terminator" movie poster
The underlying message in his article was clear: the rate and direction of technological innovation over time will lead to a world where humans are unnecessary and machines will be able to do without us.Instead of interacting with them in the way we historically haveprogramming them to execute the tasks we instruct them to performwe will cross a threshold where we unwittingly relinquish the responsibility of making important decisions that we as a society need to make. They will do our thinking for us.
We are now twenty years since the publication of his article, and we have indeed experienced tremendous technological advancement. It is well-deserved that we marvel, celebrate, and appreciate how these advancements are adding or contributing to our experience of life as human beings. With artificial intelligence and machine learning in particular, however, one could argue it is vital that we take a moment to pause and look at what is happening through the lenses of Joys article.
"Our most powerful 21st-century technologiesrobotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechare threatening to make humans an endangered species."
Can We Prevent a Future with Machines as Masters?
Movie scene from "2001: A Space Odyssey"
The overthrow of the human species by machines is by no means inevitable. It will not happen overnight. There would necessarily be stages that we as a species would be witness to.
Initially, there would be a state of reasonable reliance on machines to augment our thinking, in advance of relegating it excessively and detrimentally to them.Conceivably upon encountering a situation which goes too far, potentially threatening our existence or relevance, we could intervene.
Among the most salient considerations:
There is no doubt that innovation is part of our nature as human beings. Invariably we should, must, and will continue to build and ascend into the acquisition of new capabilities. For our society and the well-being of our species, this has shown that it can be a very good thing. We have reached a challenging point, however, and it is vital that we start thinking considerately, and perhaps differently, about our approach to innovation.
The need to take other factors into account when selecting where to focus our innovative capacities is increasingly urgent.
What Dimensions Should We Examine?
Economic return to investors and shareholders is, of course, a significant priority when launching into a new entrepreneurial endeavor or corporate innovation initiative. The need to take other factors into account when selecting where to focus our innovative capacities is increasingly urgent.
Some of the most critical dimensions include:
The intent here is not to delve into each of these dimensions and propose a means for analyzing investment opportunities against each. The measurement of the above factors is complex and not straightforward.
New Yorker Magazine/Tom Toro. November 26, 2012
The aim, rather, is to look more broadly than at each dimension and to look at them collectively.It is arguably now more important than ever that we approach innovation such that we are clear and intentional about what we are actually advancing.We do this so that we can craft and escort ourselves into a future that we desire; presumably, one where human beings will remain relevant.
New Categories of Jobs Arise
To take an isolated example, when it comes to security and industrial surveillance relative to job displacement impact, we know that the advent of drones is going to lead to a reduction in the number of humans needed to perform these functions. At the same time, it is also giving rise to the need for drone operators, mechanics, and interpreters. Some jobs will be eliminated, and others representing new opportunities are emerging.
When it comes to security and industrial surveillance relative to job displacement impact, we know ... [+] that the advent of drones is going to lead to a reduction in the number of humans needed to perform these functions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists and outlines jobs across a myriad of categories. Over time, more job categories are typically added to this list than fall off of it.In other words, we can plausibly conclude that the future of work, and the relevance of human beings within the workforce, is something over which we can and could potentially still retain a degree of influence and control.
To Succeed, We Need to Change How We Innovate
To succeed in the future, we need to change how we innovate now.
What is paramount at this point as a species is to recognize to a far greater extent our interconnectedness with one another, and with the technology and machines we are advancing.We have a great (but narrowing) opportunity to be more deliberate in our approach to innovation, along with an imperative to take additional human and environmental impact factors into account in evaluating the entrepreneurial endeavors we choose to support and pursue. From this vantage point, the future does need us, perhaps in ways we have not yet considered.
Michael A. Alvarez
Michael A. Alvarez is a leader in entrepreneurship, innovation, human development, and workforce preparation. He has founded and directed centers focused on these aspects of our economy at Stanford, UCSF, and Columbia.
Read the original here:
Why The Future Does Need Us - Forbes
What to read while youre self-isolating to avoid the coronavirus? How about books about all the various plagues humankind has survived before?
There are classics like Giovanni Boccaccios 1353 classic The Decameron, about Italian aristocrats who flee the bubonic plague in Florence, or Daniel Defoes 1722 novel A Journal of the Plague Year, an account of the Black Death in London half a century before.
There are many more recent works about pandemics, some nonfiction, some historical fiction, some speculative fiction. On March 8, Stephen King resisted comparisons of the current crisis to his 1978 novel The Stand, set in a world where a pandemic has killed 99% of the population. King tweeted, No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. Its not anywhere near as serious. Its eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions.
Despite Kings protestations, readers often look to books to help explain real-world phenomena, especially in bewildering times like these. Here are a few more plague books to consider.
Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) by Katherine Ann Porter is a short novel set during the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed five times as many Americans as did World War I. Its main character, Miranda, is a young reporter who falls in love with a soldier; the books fever-dream style captures the experience of the disease.
The Andromeda Strain (1969) by Michael Crichton is a bestselling techno-thriller that begins when a military satellite crashes to earth and releases an extraterrestrial organism that kills almost everyone in a nearby small town. Then things get bad.
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) by Gabriel Garca Mrquez is the great Colombian authors beguiling tale of a 50-year courtship, in which lovesickness is as debilitating and stubborn as disease.
The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood, which includes Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013), is a masterwork of speculative fiction by the author of The Handmaids Tale. Set in a near future in which genetic engineering causes a plague that almost destroys humanity, its savagely satirical, thrilling and moving.
The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy is a bleak, beautifully written, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set after an unspecified extinction event has wiped out most of humanity. An unnamed man and boy travel on foot toward a southern sea, fending off cannibals and despair.
Nemesis (2010) by Philip Roth is the authors 31st and last novel, a sorrowful story set in Newark, N.J., in 1944, as the United States is in the grip of the polio epidemic that killed and disabled thousands of children.
Station Eleven (2014) by Emily St. John Mandel is a bestselling novel about a group of actors and musicians traveling through the Great Lakes region in future years after a mysterious pandemic called the Georgian flu has killed almost everyone.
The Old Drift (2019) by Namwalli Serpell is a dazzling debut novel set in Zambia, spanning a century but focusing in part on the disaster wrought in that country by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1995) by Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters clear-eyed look at how rapidly the modern world has changed the nature of disease, how important preparedness is and how endangered we are without it.
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (2013) by David Quammen is the great science writers fascinating look at zoonotic diseases, such as AIDS and Ebola (and now coronavirus), that jump from animal species to ours.
With the COVID-19 pandemic posing an ever greater global threat, scientists are ramping up efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus.
There are many ways to make a vaccine, but the general idea is the same. When the immune system is exposed to a previously unknown pathogen, it usually takes a few days to train and deploy its soldiers against the invasive germ. Vaccines act like a practice drill for the immune system by exposing it to a weak, broken, or fake virus so that when an actual infection happens, the immune systems already-trained defenders are ready for the fight.
According to the World Health Organization, over 40 types of COVID-19 vaccines are being developed worldwide. Most fall into one of four categories: attenuated, subunit, recombinant vector, and nucleic acid-based.
Attenuated: Live but Frail
Attenuated vaccines are live viruses that have been weakened in a laboratory. Scientists might grow the virus but not give it enough nutrients, for example. As a result, the virus, despite being viable, is too weak to cause disease. Many common vaccines, including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and smallpox vaccines, are made with this technique. Attenuated vaccines can closely mimic real infections and are thus capable of inducing strong and long-lasting immunity in humans. On the flip side, however, because they involve a live virus, they can potentially pose health risks to people with weaker immune systems.
U.S. biotech company Codagenix is collaborating with the Serum Institute of India to develop an attenuated vaccine against COVID-19, according to the WHO.
Subunit: The Bait
Subunit vaccines involve recipients being inoculated with only the part of the virus that elicits an immune response. This viral component is called an antigen, and its what the immune system uses to identify an invader. The immune system has an excellent memory of which antigens it has encountered. So when it detects a potentially harmful virus with a familiar antigen, it knows just how to respond. In the case of the COVID-19 virus, its antigen is a spiky protein on the cell surface.
British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline is reportedly collaborating with Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a company based in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, to develop a subunit vaccine based on the aforementioned spiky proteins.
Recombinant Vector: The Sheep in Wolfs Clothing
Recombinant vector vaccines are made through genetic engineering. Similar to subunit vaccines, recombinant vector vaccines aim to expose the immune system to viral antigens. But instead of injecting the antigens directly, scientists take a snippet of the virus genetic code for the antigen and combine it with that of a harmless virus. The engineered virus can then express the antigen needed to generate an immune response without causing an infection.
Chinas first experimental vaccine approved for human trials uses this technique, with the team of researchers from the Academy of Military Medical Sciences inoculating their first volunteers last week. The study is aiming to recruit 108 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 60, and to run from March 16 to Dec. 31.
Nucleic Acid-Based: The Instruction Manual
Nucleic acid-based vaccines are the newest vaccine category. They work by injecting parts of the virus genetic material, such as DNA or RNA segments, directly into the human body. For these vaccines, scientists tend to favor antigen genes, which are essentially encyclopedias containing all the information needed to recreate antigens once the genes theyre inside human cells.
This technique has only been explored for the last 20 years or so, and thus no DNA or RNA vaccines have yet been approved for human use. But nucleic acid-based vaccines are time savers, as researchers dont have to grow viral components on a massive scale in the lab. Instead, this process takes place directly within human hosts.
Cutting production time is crucial for vaccine development during a pandemic. For this reason, dozens of pharmaceutical companies are eyeing a nucleic acid-based COVID-19 vaccine.
The first U.S.-developed experimental COVID-19 vaccine given to humans is an RNA vaccine made by the Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. In China, meanwhile, Fudan University is collaborating with Shanghai Jiao Tong University and RNACure Biopharma, a local biotech firm, to develop an RNA vaccine, though human trials are still pending.
Vaccine development is a time-consuming process. Most of the projects that have been announced are still in the early stages, such as testing on animal models. Despite the global effort, only two COVID-19 vaccines have entered early-stage human trials.
Editor: David Paulk.
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Four Vaccine Types That Could Stop the Coronavirus, Explained - Sixth Tone
In uncertain times, we are witnessing one of the greatest moments in the history of science.
A projected timeline for treatment and prevention of the novel coronavirus. Although we are living ... [+] through uncertain times, we are also witnessing one of the greatest moments in science history.
Scientists are breaking speed records in their race to develop treatments for the new coronavirus. Some are panning through old molecules hoping to find effective drugs. Others are applying the latest breakthroughs in synthetic biology to engineer sophisticated treatments and vaccines.
Ive previously talked about some synthetic biology companies are racing to create treatments. Others like Mammoth Biosciences are developing much-needed testing. Every day brings additional reports of the latest breakthroughs from around the world. But how can we make sense of all this information?
To provide a big-picture perspective, SynBioBeta and Leaps by Bayer have partnered to help visualize the overall progress of the research community. At the heart of the project is an infographic showing the timeline to the various treatments and preventions (click here to download it). Its based on data from The Milken Institute, which recently released a detailed tracker to monitor the progress of each of the more than 60 known COVID-19 treatments and preventions currently in development.
One takeaway: the progress to develop coronavirus treatments and preventions is moving at an unprecedented pace, with historic records being broken nearly every week.
The crisis response from the global biotech community has been truly inspiring, says Juergen Eckhardt, SVP and Head of Leaps by Bayer, a unit of Bayer AG that leads impact investments into solutions to some of todays biggest challenges in health and agriculture. We are excited to partner on this visual timeline to help a broader audience understand how and when scientific innovation may bring us through this deeply challenging time.
COVID19: Projected timeline for treatment and prevention. Three paths: pre-existing drugs, antibody ... [+] therapies, and vaccines.
There are standard stages to getting a drug approved. In Phase 1 trials, a drugs safety is assessed in a small group of healthy subjects. In later stages (Phase II & III), efficacy is measured in a larger number of people, often versus a placebo. The situation with COVID-19 is predicted to become so dire so quickly, however, that many are looking to fast-track testing. This could include granting experimental drugs expanded access, for compassionate use, which would allow physicians to give them to patients who are critically ill before testing is complete.
The fastest way to safely stop COVID-19 would be to discover that an already-approved medication works against it. Repurposed drugs do not require the same extensive testing as novel medicines and may already be available in large quantities. The Milken Institutes tracker identifies 7 candidate drugs in this category.
One is the malarial medicine chloroquine, which in recent days has been touted by some as a possible miracle drug against the coronavirus. German pharmaceutical company Bayer last week donated three million tablets of chloroquine to the U.S. The FDA and academics are together investigating whether it can provide relief to COVID-19 patients.
There are hundreds if not thousands of other FDA-approved drugs on the market that are already proven safe in humans and that may have treatment potential against COVID-19, so many scientists are rapidly screening the known drug arsenal in hopes of discovering an effective compound.
Antibodies are proteins that are a natural part of the human immune system. They work around the clock in blood to block viruses and more. The problem at the moment is that because the novel coronavirus (known as SARS-CoV-2) is new, no one has had time to develop antibodies against it.No one, that is, except those who have recovered from COVID-19.
Antibodies taken from those people could help patients who are still infected. Such patient-to-patient transfers can be performed without extensive testing or lengthy approval processes so long as standard protocols are followed. It is yet unknown whether this treatment option will work for COVID-19, nor whether there will be enough recovered donors to deal with the infection at scale.
To improve this process, companies like Vancouver, Canada-based AbCellera are applying new biotechnologies.
AbCellera is using proprietary tools and machine learning to rapidly screen through millions of B cells from patients who recovered from COVID-19. B cells are responsible for producing antibodies. The company has announced a partnership with Eli Lilly on this project and aims to bring its hottest antibodies those that neutralize the virus to the clinic.
AbCellera's platform has delivered, with unprecedented speed, by far the world's largest panel of anti-SAR-CoV-2 antibodies," said Carl Hansen, Ph.D., CEO of AbCellera, in a statement. "In 11 days, we've discovered hundreds of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current outbreak, moved into functional testing with global experts in virology, and signed a co-development agreement with one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies. We're deeply impressed with the speed and agility of Lilly's response to this global challenge. Together, our teams are committed to delivering a countermeasure to stop the outbreak."
James Crowe at Vanderbilt University is also sifting through the blood of recovered patients. Using a new instrument called Beacon from a company called Berkeley Lights. Crowes team has been scouring through B cells to find antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2. The technology behind this project was developed in recent years with funds from the Department of Defense.
Normally this would be a five year program, Crowe told me. But in the rapid process his team is following, animal studies could be done in as fast as two months.
This morning, Berkeley Lights announced a Global Emerging Pathogen Antibody Discovery Consortium (GEPAD) to attack COVID-19 and other viruses. It is partnering with Vanderbilt University, La Jolla Institute for Immunology, and Emory University to accelerate the work above to the broader research community.
This collaboration also included commercial partners, including Twist Bioscience, who synthesized DNA for the project.
Our mission is to provide the raw material needed for biologists to make breakthroughs, said Twists CEO Emily Leproust. If DNA is needed, we want to make it, quickly and perfectly
Another company that specializes in DNA synthesis, SGI-DNA, is offering its tools at much reduced cost to researchers developing COVID-19 treatments. The company said that people from around the world are coming to them for help.
"There is zero time to waste," said Todd R. Nelson, Ph.D., CEO of SGI-DNA. He said that researchers need synthetic DNA and RNA, which its Bio-XP machine can provide in as little as eight hours.
Nelson continued, "In a matter of a day or two, we have built the genes thought to be critical to the development of successful vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. SGI-DNA has made them available in the form of different genetic libraries, which researchers can use to find druggable targets in a matter of hours, dramatically accelerating the time to market for therapeutics and vaccines.
Beyond searching for antibodies in recovered patients, biotechnologists have other tricks up their sleeves.
One approach involves genetically engineering laboratory mice to mimic the human immune system. These animals can then be presented with the virus or parts of the virus and allowed to recover. The hope is that their B cells would then produce effective antibodies. Because this happens in a controlled setting, biologists can better understand and engineer the process.
A company called GenScript was pursuing this strategy as early as February 4, when police escorted 8 transgenic mice immunized with the 2019 nCoV antigen to research labs in China. In 12 hours, its researchers successfully found specific antibodies in the mice that could recognize the novel virus and potentially block it from binding to cells. In less than 24 hoursagain using Berkeley Lights new Beacon instrument for working with thousands of individual, live cellsGenScript completed a series of steps that would have taken three months using previous technology.
Yet another approach involves computational approaches and artificial intelligence. Firms like Distributed Bio are using computers to reengineer antibodies to better target SARS-CoV-2. The company is optimizing antibodies that are known to target SARS-CoV-1, the virus behind the 2003 outbreak of SARS.
We believe broadly neutralizing antibodies with engineered biophysical properties will become key weapons to win the war against all coronaviruses said Jake Glanville, CEO of Distributed Bio.
Vaccines work by simulating infection, which allows the body to mount its own defense against a virus. Effective vaccines take time to develop, and they can take even longer to test. But recent progress in biotechnology is again accelerating these efforts.
Notably, Moderna has launched a Phase 1 vaccine trial against COVID-19 in record time. Patients in Seattle have already begun receiving injections of an experimental mRNA vaccine. Moderna cranked out doses of this and won approval from the FDA for testing in just 44 days an all-time record.
These programs show a massive focus on a common enemy, and a coming together of disparate firms.
Ginkgo Bioworks, a giant in the emerging field of synthetic biology, has announced a $25 million fund to help spur even more collaboration. The company is offering its laboratory equipment and know-how to anyone with a good idea of how to stop COVID-19. We dont want any scientists to have to wait. The pandemic has already arrived, so the time for rapid prototyping and scale-up is right now, said Jason Kelly, CEO of Ginkgo.
These effortsand the infographic aboveshould give you hope. Although we are all now living in uncertain times, we are also witnessing one of the greatest moments in the history of science.
It's a terrible time, and simultaneously a fantastic time to see the global science community working together to conquer this very hard and challenging disease, said Berkeley Lights CEO Eric Hobbs. We are also learning and developing the tools and technologies to ensure that we can react faster to the next threat, so that we don't get to this point again in the future.
Follow me on twitter at @johncumbers and @synbiobeta. Subscribe to my weekly newsletters in synthetic biology.
Thank you to Ian Haydon and Kevin Costa for additional research and reporting in this article. Im the founder of SynBioBeta, and some of the companies that I write aboutincluding Leaps by Bayer, Mammoth Biosciences, Distributed Bio, Twist Bioscience, SGI-DNA, Genscript, Berkeley Lights, and Ginkgo Bioworksare sponsors of the SynBioBeta conference and weekly digest heres the full list of SynBioBeta sponsors.