Penn State cancer research center joins pandemic fight

Research Alert

Newswise — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Center for Structural Oncology (CSO) is shifting some of its focus from fighting cancer to fighting COVID-19, with three projects.  

The CSO’s director, Deborah Kelly, Lloyd & Dottie Foehr Huck Chair in Molecular Biophysics and professor of biomedical engineering, believes that the same interdisciplinary research approach and collaborative spirit that drives the CSO’s cancer research can be applied to fighting pandemics. 

“The broadly collaborative nature of these three COVID-19 projects ties together multiple entities at Penn State, including the College of Engineering, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the College of Medicine,” Kelly said. “The efforts of each will be woven together to ensure the success of all of these new initiatives.”

Jump-starting COVID-19 ravaged lungs with newly modified therapeutics

Kelly and fellow CSO member James Adair, Penn State professor of materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering and pharmacology, are partnering with researchers from the College of Medicine to re-engineer a cancer drug for COVID-19 patients. The team is researching potential viral applications of a protein therapeutic known to be effective at decreasing lung inflammation in cancer patients. 

Lung inflammation is caused by a cytokine storm, a severe immune reaction where the immune system releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Cytokines are messenger proteins, requesting more or less immune activity depending on the situation. This can lead to damage to the lungs and other organs as the immune system attacks the organs. 

“The therapeutic will be modified for enhanced solubility and use in a nebulizer,” Kelly said. “This way it can go directly to the lungs, rather than be administered intravenously, which is the case for its cancer drug version.” 

The project leader is Dr. Scott Halstead, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of critical care medicine at Penn State Health. Other researchers contributing to the project are Gail Matters, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Penn State Cancer Institute, along with Kelly and Adair.

The research is one of the projects funded by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences coronavirus seed grant initiative

'Catch and Kill' SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19

This project utilizes a new DNA-based nanoparticle design, known as synthetic antibodies. Adair is developing nanoparticles that could stick to the protein spikes on the surface of the virus. When these nanoparticles attach to the virus, this can trap the virus in the patient’s upper respiratory system and prevent the virus from entering the cell and infecting the patient. In addition, antivirals placed inside the nanoparticle can neutralize the virus.

“It's both a trap and a trojan horse and that's what makes it kind of unique,” Kelly said. “This is James Adair’s creation, and my role is working on the modeling of it.”

As the same nanoparticles can be engineered to fluoresce, they could also be used to identify virus particles on surfaces, such as in warehouses, medical facilities or in the home. Kelly said that there are proposals pending to fund this research. 

Expanding antibody testing with biotech partners

Kelly is also working on a testing project for an at-home finger-prick test to detect antibodies in the blood. The particular types of antibodies the test would detect, immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG), are types of antibodies that the body produces in reaction to a particular protein produced by COVID-19. 

“The goal is to partner with a biotech company that has developed an at-home finger-prick antibody diagnostic test,” Kelly said. “The presence of antibodies in the blood indicate exposure and probably immunity against SARS-CoV2. This test may also identify individuals who unwittingly carry the virus and pose a threat through community spread. Although ambitious, we are interested in conducting field tests, the results of which can help provide widespread knowledge of immunity and safety measures as employees return to work.”

Kelly said that manufacturing of such a simple test could potentially be scalable enough for sufficient population testing. The project is currently sponsored by the CSO, and the center is also seeking enterprise partnerships. 

“Scalability could be easy with enough industry partners,” Kelly said. “We can order up to 50,000 tests or more as needed once quality control measures prove successful.”




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 3463
28-Sep-2020 5:20 PM EDT
Leading Argonne Scientists Discuss Latest Research on Cybersecurity During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Argonne National Laboratory

Hear firsthand from two of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory’s scientific leaders how their research provides insight into cyber resilience and cybersecurity to help secure our nation’s information and systems.

Newswise: Computer Model Shows How COVID-19 Could Lead to Runaway Inflammation
Released: 30-Sep-2020 9:05 PM EDT
Computer Model Shows How COVID-19 Could Lead to Runaway Inflammation
Cedars-Sinai

New research from the University of Pittsburgh and Cedars-Sinai digs into the question: Why do some people with COVID-19 develop severe inflammation? The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Newswise: Cardiac Arrest, Poor Survival Rates Common in Sickest Patients with COVID-19
29-Sep-2020 5:05 PM EDT
Cardiac Arrest, Poor Survival Rates Common in Sickest Patients with COVID-19
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Study shows critically ill patients with the novel coronavirus have high rates of cardiac arrest and poor outcomes even after CPR, an effect most strongly seen in older patients.

Newswise: 244463_web.jpg
Released: 30-Sep-2020 3:45 PM EDT
Investigational COVID-19 vaccine well-tolerated, generates immune response in older adults
NIH, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

A Phase 1 trial of an investigational mRNA vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection has shown that the vaccine is well-tolerated and generates a strong immune response in older adults.

Newswise: Tufts University to lead $100M program to reduce risk of zoonotic viral spillover, spread
Released: 30-Sep-2020 2:10 PM EDT
Tufts University to lead $100M program to reduce risk of zoonotic viral spillover, spread
Tufts University

Tufts University will lead a $100 million, five-year program to understand and address threats posed by zoonotic viral diseases that can “spill over” from animals to humans, such as SARS-CoV-2, in an effort to reduce risk of infection, amplification, and spread, USAID announced today.

Newswise: Guiding Communities Through Alerts and Warnings for COVID-19, Other Emergencies
Released: 30-Sep-2020 1:55 PM EDT
Guiding Communities Through Alerts and Warnings for COVID-19, Other Emergencies
Homeland Security's Science And Technology Directorate

DHS S&T has been working with the FEMA IPAWS office and state and local response teams since early 2009 to develop effective alerts, warnings, and notifications programs, as well as identifying gaps in existing IPAWS alerting messaging.

Newswise:Video Embedded uw-researchers-driving-around-seattle-to-track-covid-19-response-over-time
VIDEO
Released: 30-Sep-2020 1:55 PM EDT
UW researchers driving around Seattle to track COVID-19 response over time
University of Washington

University of Washington researchers developed a project that scans the streets every few weeks to document how Seattle has reacted to the pandemic and what recovery looks like.

Newswise: 244496_web.jpg
Released: 30-Sep-2020 1:50 PM EDT
The ancient Neanderthal hand in severe COVID-19
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University - OIST

Since first appearing in late 2019, the novel virus, SARS-CoV-2, has had a range of impacts on those it infects.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 2-Oct-2020 12:15 AM EDT Released to reporters: 30-Sep-2020 1:50 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 2-Oct-2020 12:15 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.


Showing results

110 of 3463

close
0.80798