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iBio to develop second vaccine platform against COVID-19

Mounir Jamil

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iBio to develop second vaccine platform against

iBio, Inc. a biologics contract manufacturing organization and a biotechnology innovator recently announced the initiation of preclinical immunization studies for their second vaccine platform against COVID-19.

The new vaccine “IBIO-201” merges antigens from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with their patented lichenase booster molecule “LicKM” that is designed to optimize immune response. The addition of the LicKM booster to the subunit antigen will improve the probability of achieving single dose immunity while also amplifying manufacturing capacity via the increased potency.

Tom Isett, CEO and Co-Chairman of iBio said “the launch of their second vaccine platform against COVID-19 is representative of the speed, scalability and flexibility that they can accomplish by merging their plant-based FastPharming System with other technologies such as LicKM”. He added that as a company with purpose built pandemic response abilities, they are very pleased that in a few weeks they have discovered and advanced two promising, internally-developed COVID-19 vaccine platform into IND-enabling studies. What is also important to mention is that iBio’s plant-based system steers clear from exhaustive scale-up challenges that are associated with the traditional manufacturing processes, this allows them to more rapidly produce high grade quality material for millions of doses upon regulatory clearance.

After performing extensive research, iBio firmly believes that the lichenase thermostable immunomodulator protein technology has the ability to increase both the durability of the immune response as well as the potency of subunit vaccines. Previously published peer-reviewed laboratory data shows that an iBio lichenase-based vaccine candidate offered full protection against aerosolized pneumonic plague in primates. Furthermore, published data has demonstrated the value of the lichenase technology in vaccine candidate applications that target both anthrax and the yellow fever virus.

Dr. Sylvian Marcel, iBio’s VP of Protein Expression Sciences commented that one of the most common challenges with soluble antigens is they require the integration of an adjuvant to boost their immunogenicity. Dr. Sylvian added that their LicKM technology has the potential of achieving the same immune responses as a soluble antigen vaccine approach, but with lower vaccine antigen requirements. This is very valuable in deducing the number of vaccine doses required to establish prolonged immunity.

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MedTech

Covid-19 mass testing – the need for strategic implementation

Adnan Kayyali

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Covid-19 mass testing – the need for strategic implementation

Covid-19 mass testing should be an integral part of any plan to navigate the pandemic. The main objective across the board would be to incrementally ease lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions, open up and revive the economy, all while avoiding a second-wave. Testing is key to all of this. Without proper strategic testing, we cannot effectively isolate, contain and subdue any new pockets of infection.

Governments and institutions, especially those in developed countries, have all the tools they need to begin mass testing and start alleviating confinement. Ideally, restrictions wouldn’t be lifted until a vaccine or effective treatment is created, but that is sadly some time away, and so other measures must be implemented.

The questions to ask would be: What to test and how?

The answer to the first “what to test” is shorter: There are two types of tests, molecular diagnostic testing (RT-PCR), and serology tests. The first, is a standard test to identify whether the person is currently infected or not, and gaging the percentage of infected people within an area or community. The second, reveals whether the person has been infected before, and has developed antibodies. This is to allow people who have developed an immunity to return to work safely, and to provide samples and data that could help in vaccine development and better understand the virus.

The “how” is a slightly longer story. One of the most effective strategies that have been tried and tested by other nations such as South Korea is ‘Testing, Tracking, and Tracing’ – or TTT.

  • South Korea used techniques such as drive through testing sites and thermal imaging cameras.
  • Tracking, at least in South Korea, involved the obligatory downloading of an application that notifies authorities if a subject breaks quarantine, for which they would be heavily penalized.
  • Tracing of course, involves using a person’s location data to determine if they might be infected, map out where they’ve been and warn anyone living in those areas. Information may include details from a person’s phone, credit card, and facial recognition for locating the subject. This obviously brings up major privacy and human rights concerns, but most people can put aside their privacy temporarily – hopefully – in a time of crisis, if it means keeping their loved ones and communities safe.

Another technique for COVID-19 mass testing is known as “Assurance Testing”. Simply put, organizations, communities or even entire towns can request that their members be tested as a whole. This means that testing kits can be supplied on demand for an entire group, easing the organization, logistical strain, and procurement of medical supplies. It is an effective way of opening up the economy slowly and methodically as each office building or company that gets tested all together can pretty much return to work. If infected individuals are found, measures are taken.

It seems like COVID-19 mass testing is the only way out of this mess. We can’t all sit at home; someone has to run all the machines and keep society marching on. But things cannot go back to normal so quickly and easily either. Strategic implementation is key.

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MedTech

New VR video demonstrating COVID-19 Resuscitation Techniques

Mounir Jamil

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New VR video demonstrating COVID-19 Resuscitation Techniques

A digital design specialist from the Annenberg School for Communication has successfully created a 360-degree VR video demonstrating COVID-19 treatment procedures to prepare medical staff that are in remote locations to respond to emergency cases.

VR is a fully immersive technology that can benefit medical personnel by generating 3D, interactive environments in settings that are usually too hard to simulate with simple 2D graphics, the video here, was filmed in the Emergency Department in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Via operation performed on a mannequin, the video illustrates a doctor treating a COVID-19 patient that is suffering from respiratory failure.

Even though the video is available to almost everyone, it was specifically made for healthcare providers that have been exposed to high levels of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The video can be accessed by medical staff via YouTube and Annenberg’s website through a computer screen or even with a VR headset.

Kyle Cassidy, Annenberg digital design specialist, has spearheaded the project when he first created a VR video back in 2018 to teach people how to use Narcan, an anti-opioid overdose reversal agent. After Cassidy presented a paper regarding the video at a healthcare conference, a physician at Weill Cornell medicine, Kevin Ching, reached out to Cassidy in mid-Apil asking him for help in developing an educational VR video that highlights Coronavirus treatment practices.

Lauren Weinberger Conlon, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, serves as the video’s principal actor as an attending physician, has mentioned that the project deeply focuses on VR video demonstrating COVID-19 resuscitation of a patient with respiratory distress. Conlon worked closely with Ching, as well as Weill colleagues, Amos Shemesh and Neel Naik, in order to draft the video script and ensure that information presented was clear and consistent.

To make the video come to life, Cassidy used a special camera with six outward facing lenses from Penn Libraries Vitale Digital Media Lab to capture a realistic 360-degree perspective of the hospital setting and surroundings. The VR aspect of Annenberg video makes it easier for the medical staff to better prepare for the possibility of distractions in a high-pressure atmosphere as they treat a COVID-19 patient with respiratory failure.

Cassidy mentioned that there is an in-person aspect to medical teaching which often requires people to look in different directions, to physically touch something, see something move, formulate a decision, and see the outcomes of their decisions.

A recording studio assistant for Vitale Digital Media Lab at Penn, Christopher Vandegrift, edited the majority of the video by stitching the six lenses of the camera closely together, and by adding noise and lighting adjustment, and inserting onscreen graphics all in order to produce the VR video demonstrating COVID-19 resuscitation techniques. The video took around 20 to 40 hours to edit after receiving the unedited version. Vandegrift mentioned that VR makes it real and immersive in a way that normal video would not be able to capture.

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MedTech

COVID-19 Travel Kit Launched by Albea

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 Travel Kit Launched by Albea

The travel industry has taken the hardest hit during the pandemic. Many people are reluctant to fly due to the growing fear of inadequate hygiene and sanitary precautions on a flight whilst being in close proximity to other passengers and staff. To tackle this issue, Albea Travel Designer has come up with a stylish and innovative prototype: a customizable COVID-19 travel kit dubbed ‘Travel&StaySafe’.

The kit will be available for delivery worldwide and can be purchased via the companies’ ecommerce site. It is designed for airlines, transportation companies, agencies, and operators like taxi services, shipping companies, vehicle rentals, rail companies, to ensure their customers’ safety and comfort.

The COVID-19 travel kit comes with different types of masks that are reusable and which come in both adult and child sizes. It can also include gloves, hand cleaning gel, disinfectant wipes, hydroalcoholic solution, or a lab coat, if you choose to have it that way.

What is also cool about the kit is that it can be customized to any company’s brand design. This might be considered an added extravagance by some, but visual appeal adds intrinsic value to this item. Companies can choose to have their COVID-19 travel kit blend in with their image and feel, integrating better hygienic habits seamlessly into their brand identity and everyday life.

Even in a post-COVID-19 world, hygiene, sanitization and safety measures will stay in people’s minds for a long time to come. Companies must adapt to the new hyper-cautious, hyper-vigilant, and borderline-paranoid way of thinking that people have forcibly adopted. Integration by visual design is certainly one way to do it.

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