Invention by VyCAP accelerates the development of a drug against corona

Twente company VyCAP, a spin-off from the University of Twente, developed a device that can isolate cancer cells. This device, the Puncher, can also be used to detect B cells in the blood of cured patients. These white blood cells make the right antibodies against the coronavirus. The method, which VyCAP developed in collaboration with the University of Twente, is much faster than the techniques that virologists currently use for developing an antibody therapy. 

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In short

  • VyCAP developed the “Puncher”, with which antibodies can be detected more quickly
  • The process will be reduced from several months to several days
  • This technique can be used to develop a drug against corona
Detecting cells with antibodies

CTO Joska Broekmaat from VyCAP explains how the technique works, and which steps are required to use the Puncher. “A patient cured from COVID-19 has antibodies in his blood. We are looking for the B cells that produce these antibodies to develop an antibody therapy against the virus. We can isolate the genetic code for the produced antibodies from these B cells, which, by the way, are very scarce. This allows you to create production cells which can now also produce the right antibodies. Finding the right B cells and generating a cell line is a huge and time-consuming task. It takes months. We can reduce this to days, with the Puncher.

How the Puncher works

The Puncher system uses a chip containing 6400 “microwells”, little wells, in which individual cells are placed. “We measure the antibody production of all individual cells in the chip on our device. The device selects the high-producing cells and isolates them for culturing or genetic analysis. The device isolates the cell by pushing the bottom out of the microwell in which the cell is located.”

Proven technology

This invention by VyCAP is already being used by several international university hospitals, to detect cancer cells in the blood and genetically analyse them. For the past three years, the company has been working on developing ways to measure antibodies, and they are now ready to move forward with the technology. Virologists all over the world are currently working on finding the best antibody for neutralising the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This company from Twente can help with that.

Development

As of recent, VyCAP can use their facilities in the lab of the University of Twente again. Until now, this crucial infrastructure was not available for them. Due to the measures surrounding COVID-19, the labs have only limited opening hours for corona-related research. But they can start making progress now, in collaboration with researches from the University of Twente and the Erasmus MC. VyCAP is looking for funding so that the Puncher platform can be used in the search for a drug against the coronavirus. “We are still looking for more funding so we can accelerate and scale up with more parties. There is more than enough knowledge and expertise in the Netherlands, but there is not yet a budget for collaboration. We must take care of that together so that we can use all that knowledge for developing a drug to fight the coronavirus.

Date: 26 May 2020
Source of tekst: Novel-T
Author: Novel-T