VyCap invention speeds up development of Corona cure
The Twente company VyCAP, a spinoff of the University of Twente, developed a device that can isolate cancer cells. This device, the Puncher, can also be used to track down B cells, a certain type of white blood cells, that produce antibodies against the coronavirus in the blood of recovered patients.
The method, which VyCAP developed in collaboration with the University of Twente, is far quicker than than the current techniques used by virologists to develop antibody treatments. CTO Joska Broekmaat of VyCAP explains how the technique works and which steps are required before the Puncher can be applied.
Tracking down cells with antibodies
“A patient that recovered from COVID-19 has antibodies in their blood. We search for the B cells that produce these antibodies, to develop antibody therapy against the virus. We isolate the genetic code for the produced antibody from these B cells, which, by the way, are very scarce. This genetic code can then be used to generate production cells which, in turn, produce the antibodies. Finding the right B cells and generating a cell line is an incredibly time-consuming job that takes months. With the Puncher, this is reduced to days.”
How the Puncher works
The Puncher system uses a chip containing 6400 ‘micro wells’, microscopic wells that receive individual cells. “Our device measures the antibody production of all individual cells in the chip. With this device, high-production cells are selected and isolated for culturing or genetic analysis. To isolate the cell, the device punches the bottom out of the micro well containing the cell.
Proven technology is looking for funding
The invention by VyCAP is already being used by various international academic hospitals to track down cancer cells in blood for genetic analysis. Over the past three years, the company has worked on the development for measuring antibodies, and they are ready to take the technology to the next stage. Virologists across the globe are currently trying to find the best antibody to neutralize the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The company from Twente can help with this.
Starting today, VyCAP is once more able to use its facilities at the lab of the University of Twente. Until now, this crucial infrastructure was unavailable, as the labs are only partially open for corona-related research due to the COVID-19 measures. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Twente and the Erasmus MC, they can actually get to work now.
Meanwhile, VyCAP is looking for funding in order to use the Puncher platform in the search for a coronavirus cure. To that end, they submitted a research proposal to the Health Holland Program in cooperation with, among others, the Erasmus University Rotterdam. “We are still looking for more funding to speed up the process and scale it up with more parties. There is plenty of knowledge and expertise in the Netherlands, but there is no budget for collaboration. That is what we currently need to achieve, so we can focus all that knowledge to develop a cure for the coronavirus together.”
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