UB industry partners step up to fight COVID-19

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Source: University at Buffalo

COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test kits and their reagents. A next-generation vaccine adjuvant platform. How to predict dosing of monoclonal antibodies. Air sterilization technology.

You may not be familiar with all of these terms and technologies, but if you or a loved one contracts COVID-19, they could be vital for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. And they are developed right here in Western New York — made possible, in part, through state funding leveraged by the University at Buffalo.

Support from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Empire State Development and the Division of Science Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) has enabled UB to connect its academic community with industry partners to foster innovation in therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices and other life science fields.

Through UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences (CBLS), the Center for Advanced Technology in Big Data and Health Sciences (UB CAT) and Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG) — divisions within the Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships — UB’s industry partners gain access to university expertise in faculty and students, state of the art technology platforms and funding to accelerate the growth of the life sciences companies in Western New York.

ZeptoMetrix and Rheonix tackle diagnostics

Made possible through the support of BIG, ZeptoMetrix is utilizing technology at the CBLS that enables the precise quantitation of the amount of virus formulated into diagnostic test controls that help to verify accuracy of COVID-19 test results. Without controls, tests can produce false positives or negatives.

To produce dependable controls, ZeptoMetrix scientists inactivate the coronavirus in a specialized lab that allows them to safely work with highly infectious agents and then formulate the treated virus at target concentrations based upon testing sensitivities. The resulting non-infectious reagents can then be used by hospitals, labs and researchers without risk of infection.

The non-infectious reagents developed by ZeptoMetrix have been utilized by another UB partner, Rheonix, to advance rapid diagnostic COVID-19 testing. Rheonix has a longstanding relationship with UB, including collaborating with researchers at the CBLS and its Genomics and Bioinformatics Core, and receiving support from UB CAT.

In less than three months after the pandemic struck the U.S., Rheonix produced a fully automated COVID-19 diagnostic test. In April, the Rheonix test received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 testing and is now in use at laboratories in local and regional hospitals and health networks in New York State and beyond.

For more info: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2020/12/015.html.

POP Biotechnologies pursues a vaccine

POP Biotechnologies, Inc. (POP BIO), a UB spinout company located at the UB Incubator @ Baird, swiftly transitioned its particle-based vaccine delivery platform to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

POP BIO developed, and has been testing, a SARS-CoV-2 protein vaccine candidate in partnership with Korean vaccine maker Eubiologics. The results show the system is effective in preclinical studies. The company is also working on a peptide vaccine that does not require freeze storage.

Through UB CAT funding, POP BIO will continue to generate data to further validate the platform technology. In addition, the company will receive a $3 million equity investment from Eubiologics, with whom it has formed a joint venture, EuPoP Life Sciences, headquartered in Buffalo. POP BIO also has active research collaborations with two major, international pharmaceutical vaccine makers.

For more info: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2020/12/015.html.

Enhanced Pharmacodynamics expedites treatment options

BIG partner and CBLS tenant Enhanced Pharmacodynamics (ePD) is supporting commercialization of a potential treatment for COVID-19, applying methods normally used in their work on cancer drug development.

Using a quantitative systems pharmacology approach, ePD creates computational models that safely predict how monoclonal antibodies — drugs intended to both prevent and treat existing COVID-19 infections — will interact with the human body. The company’s work enables new compounds to be evaluated and to make preliminary dose projections and other drug development decisions prior to having data in human volunteers from clinical trials.

The company utilizes UB’s Center for Computational Research and student interns from UB.

For more info: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2020/12/015.html.

You First Services stops airborne virus in its tracks

Buffalo-based You First Services has UB licensed technology to develop SteriSpace™, an engineered air sterilization method that uses compressive heating and pressure to break up and destroy airborne pathogens such as COVID-19. SteriSpace is designed to kill 99.9% of airborne biological pathogens and contaminants including SARS, anthrax, influenza and tuberculosis, as developed and tested with significant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.

You First Services is also leveraging the CCR, as well as funding from UB CAT, to simulate and model airflow in indoor spaces.

For more info: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2020/12/015.html.

Partnerships serve the community and beyond

“These university-industry partnerships demonstrate the impact of how academic and private organizations in the community can join forces to leverage each other’s strengths to find solutions for complex scientific challenges and processes and ultimately contribute to innovation and economic growth in the Buffalo Niagara region,” said Christina Orsi, UB associate vice president for economic development.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our campuses went into action to help their local communities and the entire state — whether it was coming up with innovative ways to test for COVID-19 or conducting breakthrough research to understand the virus,” said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. “The recent partnerships between University at Buffalo and local organizations in health care is yet another example of SUNY’s strength in working collaboratively with industry leaders to solve for problems and overcome obstacles caused by COVID-19. Our ability to share resources and expertise, as University at Buffalo is doing, will continue to serve our communities well as we work together to contain the spread of this deadly virus.”

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner, and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler adds, “The University at Buffalo’s partnerships with industry leaders in the fight against COVID-19 are highlighting the economic and life-saving benefits of New York State’s industry-university collaborations. Governor Cuomo’s strategic investments in Buffalo, and UB entrepreneurship, have laid the groundwork for this scientific research that is helping communities both battle the pandemic and build back.” 

About UB’s Assets for Life Sciences

UB’s Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG), Center for Advanced Technology in Big Data and Health Sciences (UB CAT) and the Biorepository program are strategic assets for life sciences innovation and technology-based scientific discovery. Partner collaboration has a proven track record of accelerating growth by connecting companies with bioinformatics and data resources, including technical expertise, talent and high-tech genomics and proteomics facilities.

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