Technology Insights

Top COVID-19 innovations 2021: Biotech and pharma

Frances Wilkinson

Frances Wilkinson

Digital Content Officer

Our second COVID-19 open call for research run over the summer of 2021 aimed to gather the next generation of innovations and interventions from universities continuing to address the ongoing pandemic and the changing nature of the virus. In this article, we’ve gathered the top COVID-19 innovations in biotechnology and pharmacology, from novel diagnostics to new therapeutics, that were submitted to the call from universities and research institutes around the world. For further reading, you can view the full list of COVID-19 innovations submitted to the call in our open research directory.

 

How to review the projects

A non-confidential summary of each top COVID-19 innovation featured in this blog is hosted on IN-PART’s matchmaking platform for university-industry collaboration. Set up an account (it’s completely free), login, and follow the links below.

 

How to connect with the academic teams behind the projects

If you see a project that aligns with your company’s research priorities, you can make a request for more information directly through the article on IN-PART. The academic team or project lead will then send you a response by email.

Top Covid-19 innovations in biotechnology and pharmacology

More Rapid and Sensitive Point-of-care Testing

This novel digital droplet PCR screening test developed by researchers at the University of Notre Dame has better sensitivity than the current nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva sample techniques, removing the need for heavy and expensive equipment and allowing for rapid visual or smartphone detection of COVID-19 at the point of care.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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A New Vector for Single-dose Vaccines

A widespread vaccine programme with high uptake levels is essential for navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic. A team at Emory University are currently testing an alternative coronavirus vaccination method using poxvirus vectors to create a single-dose vaccine which has already been shown to be effective in protecting animals from infection by SARS-CoV-2.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Looking to Nature for New Antivirals

Despite vaccines being rolled out globally, the COVID-19 virus and future mutations of it will continue to circulate. A research team at the University of Nottingham have identified a naturally occurring antiviral molecule that induces an immune response against multiple viruses including SARS-CoV2 and influenza that can be easily administered via an oral agent.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Rapid Discovery of New Antibody Therapies

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a rapid antibody discovery platform that can identify new antibodies which defend against viruses including SARS-CoV-2. The focus of the discovery platform is to find antibodies that are highly stable and soluble, making them ideal for use in easy-to-formulate therapeutic treatments and mitigating future outbreaks.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Identifying Cell-compatible Drugs Against SARS-CoV-2

In response to the need for rapidly identifying effective therapeutics for treating COVID-19, this molecular probe developed by scientists at the University of Konstanz speeds up the process of drug screening to identify competitive inhibitors that exist within living cells, a tool which can also be used to identify antiviral agents for other pathogens.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Accounting for Future Mutations Across the Globe

The pandemic has had a global impact, and so scientists working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have proposed a vaccine development strategy that uses computational modelling to identify peptide sequences that would elicit immune responses and account for future virus mutations across the entire human population.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Potential Pan-coronavirus Inhibitors

Informed by computational modelling, researchers at Yale University have designed a set of new protease inhibitors, a type of antiretroviral drug that is effective against SARS-CoV-2 and suitable for use as an early-stage therapeutic, reducing the severity of infection and ideal for combination therapy with other drugs. 

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Mimicking the Cytokine Storm to Screen New Therapeutics

Cases of severe COVID-19 are often characterised by a cytokine storm, an immune reaction that causes hyper-inflammation leading to lung injuries. Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have developed a screening assay that mimics the COVID-19 cytokine storm to test new or repurposed therapeutics and natural products with fewer side effects that could reduce this damaging immune response.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Clear Visibility for COVID-19 Diagnostics

Scientists at The University of the Western Cape have developed a low-cost, rapid point-of-care diagnostic that visibly shifts from red to blue in the presence of COVID-19 proteins, accelerating the testing process by reducing the need for trained personnel and the transport of samples.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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An Alternative Vaccine Strategy Avoiding Mutation Hotspots

With growing concern surrounding the mutated versions of SARS-CoV-2, the long-term immunity offered by available vaccines has come into question. In response to this, a spin-out project from Lund University have proposed a highly efficient alternative vaccine strategy by using a fusion protein with a version of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein, one of the proteins making up the shell of the virus, and antigens that can be recognised by our T cells, to complement existing vaccines and encourage long term cell-mediated T cell immunity.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Producing Next-generation Spike Proteins

A significant amount of the research and drug development that address the SARS-CoV-2 virus centres on the spike protein structures found on the virus surface that bind to human cells to infect them. La Jolla Institute for Immunology researchers have developed a method to produce stable and authentic next-generation spike proteins, providing a promising new tool for research reagents and diagnostics, as well as developing vaccines that help our cells recognise the spike protein as a foreign cell.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Taking Clues from Antibodies to Understand the Immune Response to COVID-19

Understanding how we retain immunity to COVID-19 through our antibodies is a key part of designing effective treatments and vaccines. Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have developed diagnostic assays that can confirm an individual’s exposure and levels of immune response to SARS-CoV-2, as well as tests to screen new antivirals and vaccines through detection of neutralising antibodies.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Live Cell Assay for Screening New COVID-19 Therapeutics

Researchers at the Qatar Foundation have developed a live cell-based assay that identifies critical enzyme activity for cell replication that can be used in drug discovery to accurately identify significant COVID-19 therapeutics for current and future pandemics.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Plant-derived Anti-viral Supplement

A plant-based antiviral developed by researchers from North Carolina State University can be taken regularly in tablet or liquid dietary supplement products to prevent and treat COVID-19 and other viral infections at home.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Immunogens for Virus Detection and Temperature-stable Vaccines

Penn State University researchers have engineered a suite of molecules called immunogens that accurately bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins and elicit an immune response with spike protein binding activity. The engineered molecules are suitable for large-scale production and could have many applications including improved virus detection tests and temperature-stable vaccines that are easier to store.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this top COVID-19 innovations feature.

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Technologies written by Jake Mitchell (1, 3, 5), Steph Faulkner (2, 7), Sarah Firth (6), Ruth Kirk (4, 8, 12), Frances Wilkinson (9, 13, 14), Kiran Raja (10) and Chris Banyard (11, 15).

Edited by Ruth Kirk. Formatting by Frances Wilkinson.

Copyrights reserved unless otherwise agreed – IN-PART Publishing Ltd., 2021: ‘Top 15 Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical COVID-19 Innovations’


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