FDA authorizes first diagnostic test for COVID-19 antibodies that obstruct the virus from entering cells

The FDA has authorized the first COVID-19 diagnostic test, which identifies whether a person has the specific antibodies known to hinder the coronavirus from entering and infecting human cells.

These neutralizing antibodies are perceived as a strong biomarker of potential immunity against the disease as compared to other antibodies created by the body that has only been used as a sign of prior exposure to the virus.

The commercial diagnostic kit developed by GenScript is designed to give a test result within one hour. However, it is still not known how long these neutralizing antibodies can last within the body, and how many are required to confer protection against the novel coronavirus.

GenScript’s assay, which is developed with Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, mimics the neutralization process using safer materials. It connects recombinant protein fragments of the coronavirus’ receptor binding domain, which the virus utilizes to open and penetrate human cells, with an enzyme derived from horseradish roots. 

EGenesis collabs with Duke to help develop insulin-producing pancreas cell xenotransplants

EGenesis has declared a research collaboration with Duke University’s school of medicine to develop its xenotransplantation technology into a cell therapy for diabetes.

The project will commence assessing insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells that derived from animals, which have been genetically engineered to be compatible with humans. This covers an in vivo study of the xenotransplants in primates to ascertain surgical approaches before progressing to full clinical trials in the future.

Millions live with type 1 diabetes, but with the advancements in gene-editing technology, there is currently, the potential of developing and carefully transplanting human-compatible xeno-islet cells that could allow these patients to decrease or kill their requirement for glucose monitoring and insulin injections. The research will be conducted at Duke that will help determine whether a minimally-invasive approach into human clinical studies might be possible or not, announced by Allan Kirk, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of surgery and a professor of immunology at Duke.

Combating pancreatic cancer with a novel immuno-oncology drug conjugate

The researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have engineered a combination treatment that is designed to home in on and penetrate pancreatic cancer cells, and they have potential results in mice that the approach may work.

The Boston Children’s team developed an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), which binds to ICAM1, a molecule on pancreatic tumour cells, and delivers a cancer-killing compound. In mouse models of pancreatic cancer, two doses of the drug shrivelled tumors and averted metastasis; the researchers published in the journal Advanced Science.

The researchers began by screening the surface of pancreatic tumour cells for proteins, which were sufficient enough to serve as good binding targets. When they discovered ICAM1, they did not lose a chance to choose it as their target. ICAM1 facilitates some immune responses, and they knew from their prior research that the protein is abundant in other cancers, including melanoma and triple-negative breast cancer. An ICAM1-targeted treatment developed at Boston Children’s was effective in mouse models of triple-negative breast cancer as they reported last year.

Decibel scores USD 82 Million to push hearing loss gene therapy into the clinic

Decibel Therapeutics is grabbing USD 82 million to propel its lead programs into and through the clinic, including gene therapy for children with congenital deafness and a program leftover from its early days designed to shield hearing in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The company took a comprehensive approach to search for therapeutic opportunities, mainly for the treatment of different forms of hearing loss. It casts a wide net, including disorders where children are born deaf, or become deaf early in life, and hearing loss, which comes with ageing or with extremely loud noises.

Decibel focused on the approaches that restore the function of hair cells in the inner ear that sense and translate sound towards the end of 2019. Laurence Reid, Ph.D., Decibel’s acting CEO said that they are doing either by gene replacement, providing normal copies of genes inherited in a mutant form from a child’s parent, which leads to hearing loss, and by gene therapy to drive particular cellular pathways, which could cause the regeneration of hair cells in the vestibule or the cochlea.