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Research Roundup – Monthly Biotech News

Our first installment of Excedr’s monthly biotech news roundup is here! We cite some of our favorite news sources and link to the articles they publish concerning all things lab-related. We’ve tailored this roundup to focus on cutting-edge research and study. We also have a monthly news roundup focused on fundraising, M&A, IPOs, and more that you can check out! We hope this makes finding the news that matters most to you easy. Interested in our other blog posts? Check them out here!

Basic Research and R&D

This year has changed the way researchers have approached communicating about their work, due to the coronavirus outbreak. The outbreak has led to a culture shift in information sharing, where data is often shared in real-time around the globe. Rather than sit on important findings while waiting for a peer-reviewed journal to accept a paper, researchers have started sharing information more quickly, in the hopes of finding a solution for the COVID-19 infection. As the world grapples with the virus, research teams and companies continue to work hard. We’ll be dedicating a portion of this monthly roundup to COVID-19-related news.

Single-cell analysis proving to be a powerful tool in the race for a vaccine

Nature Biotechnology covers the use of single-cell analysis in understanding the immune response to the COVID-19 infection in this article here. The study of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics at the single-cell level is enabling faster discovery of different antibody leads in the fight against the novel coronavirus and is highlighting ways in which pandemics can be handled in the future. The article also covers single-cell technologies that are proving to be incredibly applicable during the race to find a cure for the COVID-19 infection.

What do we know about convalescent plasma in the fight against COVID-19?

Scientists around the globe are collecting blood samples from coronavirus survivors. “Building on the age-old understanding that blood plasma from disease survivors is rich in antibodies,” these scientists hope to answer the question “could convalescent plasma therapy be the game changer doctors need to help the worst COVID-19 patients in hospitals?” Jacob Glanville of Distributed Bio appears on Carte Blanche South Africa to answer some of their questions, as they examine the research to find answers. You can find the video here.

Multinational biopharmaceutical company to begin drug cocktail trials

AstraZeneca begins trials of a COVID-19 drug cocktail, combining a vaccine shot with multiple antibodies, as their rivals begin to fall behind. BioPharma Dive covers the announcement. The company has dosed its first participant in a phase 1 trial. The trial is unique for its combination of its well-known experimental vaccine with an antibody-drug which they licensed from Vanderbilt University. Read the brief here! AstraZeneca’s vaccine, a shot that was developed by the University of Oxford, is a front-runner in “the global race for a preventative treatment.” Furthermore, the phase 1 trial involving antibodies has now made AstraZeneca “the third company to bring a coronavirus antibody-drug into human testing.”

COVID-19 patients with cancer battle worse outcomes depending on tumor subtype

Biospace covers a study recently published by Lancet Oncology analyzes the risk of death from the COVID-19 infection by tumor subtype and patient demographic. The research marks the first comprehensive analysis that can be used to determine who is most at risk, meaning researchers are now “‘working fast to identify trends and correlations that will enable us to create a tiered risk assessment tool so we can more precisely define the risk to a given cancer patient and move away from a blanket ‘vulnerable’ policy for all cancer patients, in the event of a second wave of COVID-19,’” according to Rachel Kerr, FRCP, study senior researcher at the University of Oxford. The newly available data will enable oncologists to have a better idea of how to care for their patients moving forward, as the world continues to battle with the coronavirus outbreak. You can find the article here!

While research efforts remain focused on the coronavirus outbreak, other developments have quietly continued. With interest and investment in basic research and R&D continuing to grow, many projects carry on. 

ENCODE paves the way for future of genome research with detailed atlas

A 17-year research project launched by the National Human Genome Research Institute called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) collaboration has put together a “detailed atlas of the genome that reveals the locations of hundreds of thousands of potential regulatory regions.” Read the news release here! The atlas will serve to help all human biology research moving forward. These significant advances are a product of the combined scientific and technological expertise of hundreds of researchers at various institutions, as covered by Berkeley Labs. “‘We’ve sequenced the human genome and we largely know where genes are. But when you get outside genes, mapping the function of genomic ‘dark matter’ is much more daunting. It’s a big step forward for us to know how to find the areas within the 98% that are functionally important,’ said Len Pennacchio, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.”

Fuels cells just became longer-lasting thanks to an international research team  

Led by the University of Bern, a research team has successfully developed an electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells. SelectScience covers the development. The electrocatalyst is durable and provides a stable source of electricity, unlike the platinum-cobalt nanoparticle catalysts used in fuel cells today which can melt together or erode. This makes clean hydrogen a viable source of zero-emissions energy on a larger scale. Professor Matthias Arenz from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and his team produced the electrocatalyst using a special process. The research team’s findings are a huge step in developing sustainable energy that can be used for industrial applications. Furthermore, the fuel cells will hopefully become widely used in the automotive industry due to their scalability. You can find the SelectScience post here!

The top 10 global R&D institutes, according to Nature’s Journal Index

This recently published special report at FierceBiotech ranks the top ten research institutions based on the methodology implemented by Nature’s index. The index uses “article count (AC) and Fractional Count (FC) to track research output.” While medical and health R&D has outpaced overall health spending for the third straight year, more needs to be done, according to Research!America, the research firm that put together the report that breaks down R&D spending in the U.S. for 2018.