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COVID-19-vaccine rollout risks and challenges

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

BioNTech and Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines received Emergency Use Authorization in January 2021 in Canada, European Union, United Kingdom and United States. However, in certain places COVID-19 has hit a few hindrances such as stockpiles have accumulated, deployment to vulnerable countries and at-risk groups has been slower than expected.  Yet, experts can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic. In United States, hundred of organization take a vital role in vaccine deployment, adapting their operations to meet the demands for volume, speed and better technology. Tens of thousands of transporters, vaccine handlers, medical and pharmacy staff, and frontline workers have mandatory training on the specific characteristics of each manufacturer’s distinct vaccines.

The common operating model provides the details of end-to-end vaccine deployment. Possible areas of risk to the rapid delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States include:

Raw-materials constraints in production scaling

Scaling access to material and boosting production levels can cause logistical, contractual and even diplomatic challenges, requiring new forms of collaboration. The top two US manufacturers, for example, can produce 280 million vials per year, capable of holding up to 2.8 billion doses.

Quality-assurance challenges in manufacturing

Generating yields to produce a new class of vaccines—such as those based on mRNA or viral vectors—at an unprecedented scale (1.8 billion to 2.3 billion doses by mid-2021), manufacturers have required massive volumes of inputs, a larger technical workforce.

Cold-chain logistics and storage-management challenges

Manufacturers and distributors are preparing to maintain cold-chain requirements for distribution and long-term storage of mRNA-based vaccines. Large amounts of dry ice may be needed at various locations before administration.

Increased labor requirements

Complex protocols for handling and preparing COVID-19 vaccines have the potential to strain labor capacities or divert workers from other critical roles.

Wastage at points of care

Errors in storing, preparing, or scheduling administration of doses at points of care will have significant consequences and proper on-site storage conditions are also of critical importance.

IT challenges

IT systems, including vaccine-tracking systems and immunization information systems will be vital for allocating, distributing, recording, and monitoring the deployment of vaccines.

There are several possible approaches to help mitigate each of the six risks discussed, each with practical steps for organization to take across the common operating model.

Building resilient raw-materials supplies

  • Resilience planning.Producers can partner with global suppliers of raw materials and ancillary-product manufacturers to create redundancies.
  • Collaboration between industry and government.Ongoing industry engagement with government is essential for ramping-up production and maintaining high levels of production.

 Scaling manufacturing within quality guidelines

  • Scale manufacturing in new and existing facilities.  Various digital and analytics tools can help expand capacity and scale more quickly.
  • Assure quality and yield in current facilities. By continuing to coordinate with regulators, manufacturers and authorities can certify that procedures and dosage quality meet both long-established and newly issued guidelines.
  • Establish predictable supplier plans. Each manufacturing stakeholder can follow a clearly defined plan and they can also conduct regular cross-functional risk reviews to ensure that quality.

Optimizing the cold chain

  • Build redundancy into distribution.Manufacturers, distributers should quickly identify points of failure and creating redundancies at each stage.
  • Leverage feedback loops.Reporting systems could be set up to capture supply-chain disruption events as soon as they happen, with data used to refine best practices and procedures and avoid further losses.
  • Use point-of-care stock management.Vaccine inventories can be redistributed to locations with greater demand. Strategies to avoid over stockpiling must confirm maintenance of the cold chain to prevent risks to the receiving administration site.

Addressing labor shortages

  • Use several types of point-of-care facilities.Rely on hospitals and primary-care locations for vaccine administration, in addition to retail pharmacies.
  • Streamline administration across sites.Deploying vaccines at larger, streamlined vaccination sites can be more efficient and improve patient safety, labor utilization, and speed of vaccination.

 Reducing spoilage at points of care

  • Track and monitor spoilage at points of care.Manufacturers and distributors can collaborate to establish the means to identify and trace instances of spoilage. They can learn from experience and refine guidance, training, certification, and allocation to optimize utilization of doses.
  • Pace first-dose allocation.Allocation of first doses to populations and locations where the need is greatest and the confidence in the availability of second doses is high (such as healthcare professionals and vulnerable populations in nursing homes).
  • Prioritize second doses.Authorities can help ensure that the recommended two-dose course schedule for such vaccines as the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines are duly completed.
  • Establish recipient commitment.Vaccine recipients could be asked to commit to second-dose appointments at their point of care before first-dose administration.
  • Manage certification.National and local government institutions can collaborate to ensure that vaccination certifications are withheld until recipients receive their second dose.

Meeting IT challenges

  • Balance IT upgrades and resilience.Stakeholders should identify IT systems that can be relied upon in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and assess their ability to perform at scale.
  • Share cyberthreat intelligence.COVID-19-vaccine stakeholders should agree upon common requirements and processes for generating and sharing threat intelligence.
  • Establish means of demonstrating immunity.Manufacturers and distributers can commission systems to track and verify that vaccine recipients have demonstrated immunity. if it will release them from travel limits and other pandemic-related restrictions.

Although not one organization is involved for managing vaccine deployment, but the risks can be fully address if organizations align on lead organization to build scenarios to test responses to emerging crises. The groups could align on lead organizations to manage issues while building scenarios to test responses to emerging crises. The benefits in managing each of these risks could be demonstrated with compelling metrics and communications.  As COVID-19-vaccine rollouts commence, the steps mentioned above can be undertaken by manufactures, distributors and governments.

SOURCE

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/the-risks-and-challenges-of-the-global-covid-19-vaccine-rollout?cid=other-eml-nsl-mip-mck&hlkid=19a51f848bee4d00806d2da81315f70d&hctky=2071733&hdpid=062f1841-f911-48f3-ab14-a9f92e30721f#

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Early Details of Brain Damage in COVID-19 Patients

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

 

COVID-19 has currently claimed more American lives than World War I, Vietnam War and the Korean war combined. And while it is mainly a respiratory disease, COVID-19 infection affects other organs, including the brain. Researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital found that COVID patients with neurological symptoms show more than some metabolic disturbances in the brain as patients who have suffered oxygen deprivation.

During the course of the pandemic, thousand patients with COVID-19 have been seen at MGH and the severity of the neurological symptoms varies from temporary loss of smell to more severe symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, seizures, and stroke. According to the principal investigator of the study, Eva Maria Ratai, Department of Radiology used 3 Tesla Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) to identify neurochemical abnormalities even the structural imagining findings are normal. COVID-19 patients’ brains showed N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) reduction, choline elevation, and myo-inositol elevation, comparable to what is seen with these metabolites in other patients with leukoencephalopathy after hypoxia without COVID.

Their research indicated that one of patients with COVID-19 indicate the most severe white matter damage, whereas another had COVID-19 associated necrotizing leukoencephalopathy at the time of imaging. And the patient that experience cardiac arrest showed subtle white matter changes on structural MR. The control cases included one patient with damage due to hypoxia from other causes: one with sepsis-related white matter damage, and a normal, age-matched, healthy volunteer.

The main question still remains whether the decrease in the oxygen of the brain is causing the white matter to change or whether the virus itself is attacking white matter. The conclusion is that MRS can be used as a disease and therapy monitoring tool.

SOURCE

Small study reveals details of brain damage in COVID-19 patients

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Mysteries of COVID Smell Loss

Reported : Irina  Robu, PhD

When Covid-19 patients have smell loss it tends to be sudden and severe. They are usually don’t have a blocked, stuffy or runny nose – most people with coronavirus can still breathe freely.  Since the epidemy started in march, an estimated of 80 percent of people with COVID-19 have experience smell disturbances in addition to loss of taste and the ability to smell chemical irritants. Research has shown that smell loss is common in people with COVID-19 disease, the reason why researchers and doctors have recommended to use a diagnostic test to determine if a patient has COVID-19.

Yet, the mystery is how the new coronavirus robs patients of their senses. During the early days of the epidemic, physicians and researchers thought that COVID related loss of smell might signal that the virus makes its way into the brain through the nose, where it can do the most severe damage. According to Sandeep Robert Data, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, the research data showed that the primary source is the in the nose, but more specifically in the nasal epithelium. It looks like the virus attacks the cells responsible for registering odors rather than attacking neurons directly.  

It is well known that  olfactory neurons do not have angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, which permit the virus entry to cells, on their surface. But sustentacular cells, which provide support for  olfactory neurons are scattered with the receptors. These cells preserve the important  balance of salt ions in the mucus that neurons rest on on to send signals to the brain. If that balance is disturbed, it could lead to a closure of neuronal signaling and loss of smell.

The sustentacular cells correspondingly deliver the metabolic and physical support necessary to keep the fingerlike cilia on the olfactory neurons wherever receptors that detect odors are disturbed. Nicolas Meunier, a neuroscientist at the Paris-Saclay University in France determined that disruption of the olfactory epithelium might explain the loss of smell. Yet, it remains unclear if the damage done by the virus or because it invades immune cells.

Since COVID-19 doesn’t cause nasal congestion, researchers have found a few clues about the loss of smell. Taste receptor cells, which detect chemicals in the saliva and sends signals to the brain do not have ACE receptors. They don’t necessarily  get infected by COVID-19, but other support cells in the tongue carry the receptor.

Researchers determined that more clues on  to how the virus obliterates smell. However, some patients have seen that after five months the ability to smell has returned but not as great as expected. That news is welcomed for patients that have suffered loss of smell due to the COVID-19 virus, yet apprehensions about long term loss of smell is a large cause of concern.

SOURCE

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mysteries-of-covid-smell-loss-finally-yield-some-answers1/

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12/5/2020

Regeneron’s Covid Antibody coktail has been cleared for emergency use by the FDA. The emergency authorization for REGN-COV2, a combination of monoclonal antibodies casiriviamb and imdevimab, marks the second for the antibody therapy. The first emergency authorization was given to Eli Lily’s bamlanivimab.

The difference that REGN-COV2 is a concoction of several drugs, whereas Lilly’s treatment contains only one drug, the two emergency authorizations  are almost identical. They treat both for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients at least 12 years of age who are not hospitalized but are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/regeneron-following-lilly-s-footsteps-wins-fda-emergency-nod-for-covid-19-antibody-cocktail


Regeneron’s new antibody cocktail drug, REGN-COV2

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Regeneron,  leading biotechnology company using the power of science to bring new medicines to patients in need answered quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and found an antibody cocktail  as the pandemic numbers increase in the U.S. The antibody cocktail, also known as REGN-COV2 antibody combination therapy is an investigational medicine, and its safety and efficacy have not been fully evaluated by any regulatory authority.

REGN-COV2 is being studied in four ongoing late-stage clinical trials: two Phase 2/3 trials for the treatment of hospitalized and non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Phase 3 RECOVERY trial of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the UK, and a Phase 3 trial for the prevention of COVID-19 in uninfected people who are at high-risk of exposure to a COVID-19 patient. The Phase 3 prevention trial is being jointly conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The company expects approval from FDA on its antibody cocktail and expect to have 2.4-gram doses ready for about 80,000 patients at the end of November and 200,000 doses at the beginning of January.  At the same time, Regeneron partnered with Roche to expand its capacity further by increasing its manufacturing capacity.

Regeneron come in COVID-19 research early this year as the outbreak was in its early stages, testing hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies in mice and seeing how they compared with antibodies from human survivors of the novel coronavirus.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercepharma.com/manufacturing/regeneron-predicts-300-000-covid-19-cocktail-doses-ready-by-january-and-substantially

 

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Tiny biologic drug to fight COVID-19 show promise in animal models

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

A research team at University of Pittsburg School of Medicine identified an antibody component that is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody. Their research published in Cell, indicates that the drug, Ab8 based on it is effective in mice and hamsters. The research was started by screening a library of about 100 billion antibody fragments to identify candidates that bound tightly to the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2’s surface, which the virus uses to enter and infect human cells.

A typical antibody consists of two heavy chains and two light chains. The chosen molecule is the variable domain of the heavy chain of an immunoglobulin, which is a type of antibody. The heavy chain variable domain is essential for binding with an antigen. Ab8 was created by fusing the variable, heavy chain domain with part of the immunoglobulin tail region, giving it immune functions but doing so with a molecule that’s about half the size of a full immunoglobulin.

The smaller size of the antibody can improve the therapeutic efficacy for infectious diseases and can be delivered through inhalation. Their research showed that Ab8 completely neutralized SARS-CoV-2 in lab dishes. The drug developed showed that inhibited the virus in lung tissue in animal body even at the lowest dose 2 mg/kg as compared to untreated controls.

The research team is looking to determine the drug effect in hamsters, which were reported to have better clinical signatures of COVID-19. And the hamsters that got the drug display less severe pneumonia that did the control animals. Drugs with alternative administration routers could provide additions to the first wave of COVID-19 therapies and vaccines.

What is more important, Ab8 does not appear to bind to human cells which is a good sign that it won’t have negative side effects.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/small-sized-biologic-against-covid-19-shows-promise-animal-models

 

 

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Llama inspired “AeroNabs” to strangle COVID-19 with an inhaler 

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Llama and other camelids fight off pathogens like viruses with tiny antibodies called nanobodies. A USCF team used protein engineering to make a synthetic nanobody that prevents the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 from binding to healthy cells and infecting them. The team indicates promising preclinical results for aerosol formulation and can be used as a self-administered form of protein against the virus.

According to the UCSF team, an aerosolized form of nanobody exhibit SARS-CoV-2 incapable of binding to the ACE2 receptor on healthy cells that line airways. The synthetic nanobody stays functional after it was freeze-dried, exposed to heat and aerosolized.

The researchers ongoing screening a library of synthetic nanobodies, ultimately landing on 21 that banned the spike-ACE2 interaction. The scientists decided that in order to be truly efficient, a nanobody based treatment with interact with all three of the receptor binding domains on the spike protein that attaches to ACE2.  Their solution was to engineer a molecular chain that connects three nanobodies together, which would ensure that when one of the nanobodies attached to RBD, the others would link to the two remaining RBD. This molecular chain resulted in a drug candidate proved to be 200,000 times more potent than a single antibody.

At the same time, ExeVir Bio is also developing an aerosolized COVID-19 treatment inspired by llamas and is currently trying to advance its candidate into clinical trials by the end of the year. Their main candidate, VHH-72Fc was considered to bind to an epitope that is found both in SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV. Yet, the llama inspired treatments are still behind antibody efforts like that of Regeneron.

Even though, there are multiple vaccines in development, researchers at UCSF believe that AeroNabs can be used as a sort of personal protective equipment until vaccines become available. The same researchers are planning human trials and are in discussion with partners who can provide manufacturing and distribution backing.

SOURCE

https://www.fiercebiotech.com/research/ucsf-engineers-develop-llama-inspired-aeronabs-to-strangle-covid-19-inhaler

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FDA Authorizes Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 Patients

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized convalescent plasma therapy in August 2020 for people with coronavirus disease 2019. The convalescent plasma shows promising efficacy in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and the benefits outweighs the risk  and FDA gave emergency use authorization. The approval is not  for any particular convalescent plasma product, but for preparation collected by FDA registered blood establishments from individuals whose plasma contains anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and who meet all donor eligibility requirements.

What exactly is convalescent plasma ? It is blood donated from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 has antibodies to the virus that causes it. The donated blood is processed by removing blood cells, leaving behind plasma and antibodies, which can be given to people with COVID-19 to boost their ability to fight the virus. According to FDA, COVID-19 covalescent plasma with high antibody titer can be effective in reducing mortality in hospitalized patients, but low antibody titer can be used based on health care provider discretion.  FDA also indicated that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients.

To confirm the results, the FDA recommended randomized trialsas COVID-19 convalescent plasma does not yet describe a new standard of care based on the current available evidence.

SOURCE

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/88225?xid=NL_breakingnewsalert_2020-08-23

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Miniproteins against the COVID-19 Spike protein may be therapeutic

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Computer-designed proteins may protect against coronavirus

At a Glance

  • Researchers designed “miniproteins” that bound tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented the virus from infecting human cells in the lab.
  • More research is underway to test the most promising of the antiviral proteins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An artist’s conception of computer-designed miniproteins (white) binding coronavirus spikes. UW Institute for Protein Design

The surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is covered with spike proteins. These proteins latch onto human cells, allowing the virus to enter and infect them. The spike binds to ACE2 receptors on the cell surface. It then undergoes a structural change that allows it to fuse with the cell. Once inside, the virus can copy itself and produce more viruses.

Blocking entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells can prevent infection. Researchers are testing monoclonal antibody therapies that bind to the spike protein and neutralize the virus. But these antibodies, which are derived from immune system molecules, are large and not ideal for delivery through the nose. They’re also often not stable for long periods and usually require refrigeration.

Researchers led by Dr. David Baker of the University of Washington set out to design synthetic “miniproteins” that bind tightly to the coronavirus spike protein. Their study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Findings appeared in Science on September 9, 2020.

The team used two strategies to create the antiviral miniproteins. First, they incorporated a segment of the ACE2 receptor into the small proteins. The researchers used a protein design tool they developed called Rosetta blueprint builder. This technology allowed them to custom build proteins and predict how they would bind to the receptor.

The second approach was to design miniproteins from scratch, which allowed for a greater range of possibilities. Using a large library of miniproteins, they identified designs that could potentially bind within a key part of the coronavirus spike called the receptor binding domain (RBD). In total, the team produced more than 100,000 miniproteins.

Next, the researchers tested how well the miniproteins bound to the RBD. The most promising candidates then underwent further testing and tweaking to improve binding.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, the team was able to build detailed pictures of how two of the miniproteins bound to the spike protein. The binding closely matched the predictions of the computational models.

Finally, the researchers tested whether three of the miniproteins could neutralize SARS-CoV-2. All protected lab-grown human cells from infection. Candidates LCB1 and LCB3 showed potent neutralizing ability. These were among the designs created from the miniprotein library. Tests suggested that these miniproteins may be more potent than the most effective antibody treatments reported to date.

“Although extensive clinical testing is still needed, we believe the best of these computer-generated antivirals are quite promising,” says Dr. Longxing Cao, the study’s first author. “They appear to block SARS-CoV-2 infection at least as well as monoclonal antibodies but are much easier to produce and far more stable, potentially eliminating the need for refrigeration.”

Notably, this study demonstrates the potential of computational models to quickly respond to future viral threats. With further development, researchers may be able to generate neutralizing designs within weeks of obtaining the genome of a new virus.

—by Erin Bryant

Source: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/computer-designed-proteins-may-protect-against-coronavirus

Original article in Science

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors

 

  1. View ORCID ProfileLongxing Cao1,2
  2. Inna Goreshnik1,2
  3. View ORCID ProfileBrian Coventry1,2,3
  4. View ORCID ProfileJames Brett Case4
  5. View ORCID ProfileLauren Miller1,2
  6. Lisa Kozodoy1,2
  7. Rita E. Chen4,5
  8. View ORCID ProfileLauren Carter1,2
  9. View ORCID ProfileAlexandra C. Walls1
  10. Young-Jun Park1
  11. View ORCID ProfileEva-Maria Strauch6
  12. View ORCID ProfileLance Stewart1,2
  13. View ORCID ProfileMichael S. Diamond4,7
  14. View ORCID ProfileDavid Veesler1
  15. View ORCID ProfileDavid Baker1,2,8,*

See all authors and affiliations

Science  09 Sep 2020:
eabd9909
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9909

Abstract

Targeting the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and the human ACE2 receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. We designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the Spike receptor binding domain (RBD), or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences designed to optimize target binding, folding and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD with affinities ranging from 100pM to 10nM, and blocked ARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with IC 50 values between 24 pM and 35 nM; The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56 and 64 residue proteins (IC 50 ~ 0.16 ng/ml). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.

 

RESEARCH ARTICLE

De novo design of picomolar SARS-CoV-2 miniprotein inhibitors

  1. View ORCID ProfileLongxing Cao1,2
  2. Inna Goreshnik1,2
  3. View ORCID ProfileBrian Coventry1,2,3
  4. View ORCID ProfileJames Brett Case4
  5. View ORCID ProfileLauren Miller1,2
  6. Lisa Kozodoy1,2
  7. Rita E. Chen4,5
  8. View ORCID ProfileLauren Carter1,2
  9. View ORCID ProfileAlexandra C. Walls1
  10. Young-Jun Park1
  11. View ORCID ProfileEva-Maria Strauch6
  12. View ORCID ProfileLance Stewart1,2
  13. View ORCID ProfileMichael S. Diamond4,7
  14. View ORCID ProfileDavid Veesler1
  15. View ORCID ProfileDavid Baker1,2,8,*

See all authors and affiliations

Science  09 Sep 2020:
eabd9909
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9909

Abstract

Targeting the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and the human ACE2 receptor is a promising therapeutic strategy. We designed inhibitors using two de novo design approaches. Computer generated scaffolds were either built around an ACE2 helix that interacts with the Spike receptor binding domain (RBD), or docked against the RBD to identify new binding modes, and their amino acid sequences designed to optimize target binding, folding and stability. Ten designs bound the RBD with affinities ranging from 100pM to 10nM, and blocked ARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero E6 cells with IC 50 values between 24 pM and 35 nM; The most potent, with new binding modes, are 56 and 64 residue proteins (IC 50 ~ 0.16 ng/ml). Cryo-electron microscopy structures of these minibinders in complex with the SARS-CoV-2 spike ectodomain trimer with all three RBDs bound are nearly identical to the computational models. These hyperstable minibinders provide starting points for SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics.

 

SARS-CoV-2 infection generally begins in the nasal cavity, with virus replicating there for several days before spreading to the lower respiratory tract (1). Delivery of a high concentration of a viral inhibitor into the nose and into the respiratory system generally might therefore provide prophylactic protection and/or therapeutic benefit for treatment of early infection, and could be particularly useful for healthcare workers and others coming into frequent contact with infected individuals. A number of monoclonal antibodies are in development as systemic treatments for COVID-19 (26), but these proteins are not ideal for intranasal delivery as antibodies are large and often not extremely stable molecules and the density of binding sites is low (two per 150 KDa. antibody); antibody-dependent disease enhancement (79) is also a potential issue. High-affinity Spike protein binders that block the interaction with the human cellular receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) (10) with enhanced stability and smaller sizes to maximize the density of inhibitory domains could have advantages over antibodies for direct delivery into the respiratory system through intranasal administration, nebulization or dry powder aerosol. We found previously that intranasal delivery of small proteins designed to bind tightly to the influenza hemagglutinin can provide both prophylactic and therapeutic protection in rodent models of lethal influenza infection (11).

Design strategy

We set out to design high-affinity protein minibinders to the SARS-CoV-2 Spike RBD that compete with ACE2 binding. We explored two strategies: first we incorporated the alpha-helix from ACE2 which makes the majority of the interactions with the RBD into small designed proteins that make additional interactions with the RBD to attain higher affinity (Fig. 1A). Second, we designed binders completely from scratch without relying on known RBD-binding interactions (Fig. 1B). An advantage of the second approach is that the range of possibilities for design is much larger, and so potentially a greater diversity of high-affinity binding modes can be identified. For the first approach, we used the Rosetta blueprint builder to generate miniproteins which incorporate the ACE2 helix (human ACE2 residues 23 to 46). For the second approach, we used RIF docking (12) and design using large miniprotein libraries (11) to generate binders to distinct regions of the RBD surface surrounding the ACE2 binding site (Fig. 1 and fig. S1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download high-res image

Fig. 1 Overview of the computational design approaches.

(A) Design of helical proteins incorporating ACE2 helix. (B) Large scale de novo design of small helical scaffolds (top) followed by rotamer interaction field (RIF) docking to identify shape and chemically complementary binding modes.

For full article please  go to Science at https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/09/08/science.abd9909

 

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Black doctors’ group creates panel to vet Covid-19 vaccines

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

A group of black physicians have been working on creating their own expert task force to vet regulators’ decisions about COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, due to the fact that the trust in federal agencies has weakened over the last few months.

According to the president of NMA, Leon McDougle, the new task force will address the suspicion around COVID-19 vaccines. The fear is that the vaccines might not be safe or properly tested before they are approved which makes it the reason some patients of color are wary about taking part in the clinical trials.  The task force will evaluate how well the clinical trials participants characterize demographic breakdown of American population and the fairness of the federal plans to distribute a vaccine to Black, Latino and Native American communities.

The leaders of the black community task force are still figuring out how it will work and what happens if FDA authorizes the use of product without releasing the full data to support it. As past president of the NMA, Dr. Rodney Hood knows that the organization has in its ranks the kind of expertise that could analyze clinical trial data along with expertise in epidemiology and infectious disease.

The black community task force hopes that they are able to tell their patients about the scientific findings regarding COVID-19 vaccine with full transparency and disclosure.

SOURCE

https://www.statnews.com/2020/09/21/black-doctors-group-creates-panel-to-vet-covid19-vaccines/?utm_source=STAT+NewslettersTop of Form

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Toaster Sized Machine Detects COVID-19

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

DnaNudge, a small UK-based DNA testing company designed a toaster sized machine that can detect COVID-19 in 90 min without lab analysis. The machine invented by Christofer Toumazou, professor at Imperial College was designed to aid people tailor their diet based on heredity, but changed the design due to the pandemic. The machine needs a nose swab or some saliva to detect traces of coronavirus. It can even spot other diseases such as the flu and a common virus infection called Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). It will also notify the operator if a proper sample has been taken or if a test needs to be retaken.

Currently, the UK National Health Service ordered 5,000 of the machines, as well as cartridges to start testing coronavirus patients, as part of a $211 million contract. They are hoping that the machine designed by DNANudge states that can prove helpful in triaging potential COVID patients.

SOURCE

 https://futurism.com/neoscope/machine-covid-90-minutes?mc_eid=8eae667eea

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