Issue 1's archives
One of Scotland’s most successful biotech companies, Haptogen, is pioneering new drug discovery techniques using the immune system of sharks after striking a significant deal with the University of Aberdeen.
Haptogen – which will be using shark antibodies to create new therapies for delivering drugs to combat key diseases like cancer – has obtained the licensing rights for the technology that was developed at the University of Aberdeen.The partnership agreement will also generate a brand new revenue stream for the University which will get a share of the royalties and other performance related income. And it consolidates Aberdeen’s position as an international centre for excellence in biologics – one of the fastest growing areas of drug discovery.
Antibodies are disease fighting proteins in the blood created by the immune system which tackle bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances. Shark antibodies are the smallest antibodies found in the animal kingdom. Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs and this may explain why they have had time to generate such an interesting and potent immune system
The University of Aberdeen has developed an approach that will allow the creation of a massive “library” of shark antibodies constructed from small blood samples taken from a few live sharks. Haptogen has created a technology that can browse this library and locate the antibody most suited for tackling specific diseases.
A Florida State University researcher is developing methods for regenerating blood vessels damaged by secondhand tobacco smoke, by using chitosan and gelatin.
A postdoctoral researcher at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering since 2003, Feng Zhao’s main area of research is tissue engineering — the creation of synthetic or natural materials that can be used to replace part of a living system or to function alongside living tissue within the human body. For the project that is being funded by FAMRI, she is focused on addressing cardiovascular diseases caused by secondhand smoke.
For the FAMRI study, Zhao seeks to construct small-diameter blood vessels in a laboratory setting that will mimic the elasticity and other biological characteristics of living blood vessels but that won’t be rejected by the body after being implanted. The blood vessels themselves will be constructed from chitosan, a naturally occurring polymer, and gelatin, a denatured, naturally occurring protein.
“Once the blood-vessel scaffolds are constructed, they will be immersed in a solution that contains human mesenchymal, or adult, stem cells,” Zhao said. “The stem cells then will be stimulated to produce a substance known as an extracellular matrix, or ECM, which will coat and be used by the blood vessels. This ECM is found in living blood vessels and will enable the artificial ones to behave more like living tissue when grafted into the body.”
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography have sequenced the genome of a marine bacterium that could play a role in fighting cancer, Scripps reported recently.
In collaboration between Scripps and the Joint Genome Institute, the scientists sequenced the genome of Salinispora tropica. The results were released this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scripps said this Salinispora makes compounds that may treat cancers, including the compound salinosporamide A, which is currently in human clinical trials as a potential therapy for bone marrow cancer conducted by Nereus Pharmaceuticals.
The sequence also showed that 10 percent of the genome is “dedicated to producing molecules” that may be used for antibiotics and anticancer agents, while similar bacteria have only around six to eight percent of their genomes offering such molecules, Scripps said.The sequence may enable the researchers “to look in greater detail at this organism and potentially pull out some of the other compounds from the gene clusters that may make highly potent anticancer agents,” Scripps Researcher Bradley Moore said in a statement.
Scripps reports that it originally found the bacterium in mud in the Bahamas.
Scientists in Cuba say two compounds from lobster shells — chitin and chitosan — have healing and bio-stimulant properties. The University of Havana researchers said the compounds can be used to produce surgical materials with great healing and antiseptic properties, as well as to enhance growth speed and germination in seeds.
The Norwegian marine biotechnology company, Aqua Bio Technology AS (ABT), has recently introduced an all-natural, marine-based enzyme to the global cosmetics and cosmeceutical ingredient market. Discovered in the Norwegian waters by coincidence, the now patented enzyme, ZONASE, is now creating buzz in the global skin care market.
Research revealed that the same enzyme that degrades a fish egg shell during the fish hatching process can also be used to rejuvenate skin. According to Mr. Einar Vangsnes, CEO of Aqua Bio Technology AS,”ZONASE is an all natural, non-toxic enzyme which is perfectly suited and highly effective for skin care applications”. ZONASE has proven completely safe and highly effective in a range of applications. By removing dead skin cells, and not harming living cells, ZONASE has successfully been formulated into anti-aging, skin repair and even eczema and psoriasis applications.
Aqua Bio Technology AS has hired Strategro International, LLC to help launch ZONASE into the North American cosmeceutical market.
A UK based consortium, which includes AvantiCell Science (Ayr) and Fleet Bioprocessing (Reading), will participate in the three year project to discover new anti-cancer compounds derived from the microbial resource of the sea. The programme aims to demonstrate the potential of potent marine based bio-actives which through conjugation to monoclonal antibodies/nanoparticles could lead to a new generation of therapeutic candidates. Using proprietary technology Aquapharm is able to grow and elicit novel molecules from marine microbes which can then be screened and chemically conjugated so as to provide targeted anti-tumour activity and specificity. Aquapharm Biodiscovery and its partners, AvantiCell Science and Fleet Bioprocessing aim to develop at least 2 novel anti-cancer conjugates with demonstrated therapeutic value based upon clinical in-vitro and in-vivo efficacy over the next three years.
OBAN life science company GlycoMar Ltd has recently announced an additional service has been introduced at its in house screening facility. GlycoMar Managing Director Dr Charlie Bavington set up the Company in 2005, to exploit the potential of sugar-based compounds derived from marine invertebrates. GlycoMar has continued to expand its commercial success since 2005, when it made the headlines by extracting chemicals from starfish slime to combat allergies such as hay fever.
Dr Bavington said ”The addition of further screening assays is part of our on going strategy to develop the screening facility. This will allow us to increase income and provide vital capabilities for our own drug discovery program. The introduction of anti-oxidant assays compliments our already established anti-inflammatory screens.”
GlycoMar’s newly introduced assay is used to screen compounds for their ability to inhibit ROS/RNS production, so acting as an antioxidant and blocking downstream inflammatory events. The assay is a fully quantitative assay offering low – medium throughput. GlycoMar is also developing an in house mixed lymphocyte assay which will be commercially available early 2008.
Wanwimol Klaypradit and Yao-Wen Huang from the University of Georgia’s Department of Food Science and Technology report that combining chitosan and maltodextrin and applying the ultrasonic technique produced the smallest particles with highest emulsion stability, with high retention of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The research also explores the potential of an ultrasonic atomizer for the encapsulation process, as an alternative to spray-drying. The encapsulation technique used in the new study used three steps – emulsification, ultrasonic atomisation, and freeze drying. Combining the chitosan with maltodextrin or whey protein isolate, the researchers investigated the encapsulation of tuna fish oil. They report that the optimum ratios for chitosan to maltodextrin or whey protein were 1:10 and 1:1, respectively, with the former combination producing the smallest particle size (8.4 versus 10.2 micrometres, respectively), and the highest encapsulation efficiency (83.5 versus 79.3 per cent, respectively).
While humans and other vertebrates do not produce chitin, the human body is equipped to recognize and eliminate it. A new study by researchers at University of California indicates that a less active form of AMCase might allow our adaptive, or learned, immune system to recruit too many cells in its attempt to rid the body of chitin, eventually inflaming airways and setting off asthma. A team led by Locksley, an immunologist at the University of California San Francisco, observed an important difference from the standard process for eliminating a foreign particle, however, when they observed activation of AMCase. The lungs produce AMCase in response to the presence of IL-4 and IL-13 following exposure to chitin. The researchers found that when mice have more AMCase than normal, the immune response to chitin is greatly reduced. They also observed a dampened immune response when they exposed chitin to AMCase before the animals inhaled it. Locksley believes his study points to the importance of chitin exposure and a plausible explanation for the role of AMCase in the development of asthma.
Omega-3 supplements can vary significantly in concentration and purity. Pharmaceutical grade products are often indistinguishable to the naked eye from lower purity products at room temperature. Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, commented, “The health benefits of omega-3s are clear but many manufacturers make outrageous claims about their purity—the freezer test, developed by scientists at Cenestra Health, finally gives the consumer the upper hand in distinguishing less pure products from pharmaceutical grade supplements.” The Freezer Test™ (patents pending) utilizes the scientific principle that saturated and unsaturated fats take on different characteristics when frozen. The test is easily performed by placing an omega-3 supplement in the freezer for 24 hours. If your omega-3 primarily contains healthy, unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, it should remain clear or have a minimal change in appearance.