Three Stages to COVID-19 Brain Damage Identified by Top Neurologists in Journal of Alzheimer Disease Paper
AACR Led Global Cooperation to Resolve Questions About Relationship Between Cancer Patients and COVID-19
AM Medical Creates Timely Virtual Forum Where Medicine and Technology Meet to Transform Lives, Featuring Presentation on Community Response to COVID-1
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Reveals Relationship Between COVID-19 and Cancer
POSTECH Developed Smart Contact Lens for Diabetes Monitoring and Diabetic Retinopathy Therapy
Cumulative Quantities of Osang Healthcare COVID-19 Test Kit Exceeded 10 Million
AbClon Succeeds in Discovering Novel Antibody Drug Candidate for COVID-19
Seegene Received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by USFDA For COVID-19 Test Kit
Regarding an approval for the interim order of “TORAYMYXIN” to treat COVID-19 patients in Canada
Osang Healthcare Received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by USFDA For COVID-19 Test Kit
During a Long Period of COVID-19 Isolation, What If You Have a Stiff Neck?
"In South Korea, the number of herniated cervical disc patients in 2018 was 959,000, an increase of 10.1% compared to five years ago, with 22.5% more women than men and the highest in women in their 60s." - Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) announced on the 13th. The herniated cervical disc is a disease that pain and neurological symptoms appear in the neck, shoulders, back, or arms, as the intervertebral disc between the bones of the cervical vertebrae escapes or has ruptured, and cervical nerves get stimulated. The intervertebral disc is a soft tissue that absorbs shock between the joints of the spinal column. It contains fluid nuclei, and its outer wall is made of onion skin-like fibers. The leading causes of the herniated cervical disc include damage due to injury or traffic accidents and the aging of the neck backbone joint. As aging progresses, the moisture in the intervertebral disc decreases and loses elasticity, causing fission to burst and nuclei to escape or protrude. Recently, the cervical disc has been steadily increasing even in younger people due to the long-term use of smartphones. Symptoms vary depending on the degree or direction of the herniation of the disc, but there are three major cases. (a) When the cervical disc comes out to the side and presses on the cervical nerve roots, the symptom would be shown in the extension of pain throughout the arms and hands. (b) When the cervical disc comes out to the center and presses on the spinal cord, symptoms of hypoesthesia in legs and weakening of strength appear. (c) When the cervical disc presses on the nerve roots and spinal cord at the same time, pain in the upper limbs such as the arms and hands, and muscle weakness or dysesthesia in legs may appear. If symptoms including nausea and pain around the neck or back, pins and needles in arms, wrists, and fingers, and difficulty in turning around the neck appear, it is the best to visit a nearby medical institution and consult a spine specialist. 90% of patients can improve through physical therapy, muscle relaxants, analgesic anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise therapy, etc., and surgical treatment may be considered in some cases. Only one in five patients with cervical discs has had surgery. If you are having treatment, but it is still difficult to have a normal life, it is better to choose surgery. Recently performed surgery type of herniated include (a) removing the protruding disc while observing the region of the cervical disc using a microscopic microscope, and (b) removing the disc and replacing it with an artificial disc or bone. "With the reduction of leisure life by COVID-19, the usage time of personal electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops is increasing at home. If you use your head with your head down for a long time, cervical discs may be caused by straining the intervertebral discs," Moon Jong-wook, the manager of Spine Center at Daedong Hospital, said. Also, "In recent years, spontaneous quarantine and social distances have increased the lifestyles that can cause cervical discs. Moreover, in the situation where the initial treatment can be improved, there are a number of cases where patients are miss timing for treatment without visiting a medical institution for fear of infection. Therefore, in addition to the efforts for improvement in lifestyle and behaviors, when you have symptoms, you should go to the hospital immediately and treat it early." To prevent herniated cervical discs, frequently stretch to relieve tensions of neck and shoulder, avoid bowing or tilting for a long time, such as using a computer and smartphone, studying, washing dishes, and sit down in the correct position and refrain from using high pillows.
University of Waterloo developing DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine
Researchers at the University of Waterloo are developing a DNA-based vaccine that can be delivered through a nasal spray. The vaccine will work by using bacteriophage, a process that will allow the vaccine to replicate within bacteria already in the body and is being designed to target tissues in the nasal cavity and lower respiratory tract. “When complete, our DNA-based vaccine will be administered non-invasively as a nasal spray that delivers nanomedicine engineered to immunize and decrease COVID-19 infections,” explains Roderick Slavcev, a professor in the School of Pharmacy who specializes in designing vaccines, pharmaceuticals and gene-therapy treatments. “This research combines the expertise of many and leverages existing technology developed by my team, which we’re reconfiguring for a COVID-19 application.” When completed, the researchers aim to have the DNA-based vaccine enter cells in targeted tissues and cause them to produce a virus-like particle (VLP) that will stimulate an immune response in people. The VLP will look similar to the structure of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19), but is harmless. This similarity will activate the body’s natural immune response to protect against viral infections comparable to the VLP, including SARS-CoV-2. It will also bind to receptors that SARS-CoV-2 would bind to, limiting the possible sites for transmission. By causing these changes in the body, the vaccine will build immunity against COVID-19 and decrease the severity of infections in progress – serving as both a therapeutic and a vaccine. Every detail of the vaccine, from ensuring the bacteriophage target specific cells in the respiratory tract to creating a minimal VLP to impersonate SARS-CoV-2, is specifically engineered by the researchers and requires testing. To achieve the design of such a complex project, Slavcev is teaming up with Emmanuel Ho, another professor at the School of Pharmacy, and Marc Aucoin, professor of chemical engineering. Ho’s team is designing the nanomedication that will be delivered by the nasal spray, which is currently being tested. Aucoin’s lab is constructing and purifying the VLP and boosting immunity following the initial administration of the therapeutic vaccine. “It is the collaborative effort of our talented teams that makes this multidisciplinary project so feasible and necessarily efficient as a potential universal vaccine solution against SARS-CoV infections,” says Slavcev. “To practice science with such urgency alongside such talented colleagues and their students is not only immensely educational, it is extremely rewarding.” Slavcev’s team has completed design of the bacteriophage delivery system and is currently modifying this system to apply to COVID-19. Additional design of components and further testing will take place later this year. Components of the research are supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Korean Pharmaceutical Company AptaBio Has Been Proved Effective in Treating COVID-19 With Its 'Apx-115'
On 16th, AptaBio Co., Ltd., a South Korean biopharmaceutical company specialized in developing treatments of anti-cancer and diabetic complications, announced that it had demonstrated the effectiveness of COVID-19 treatment candidates. The company stated that through cell experiments, its NADPH oxidase (NOX) enzyme inhibitor treatment agent, APX-115, has been proved effective in treating COVID-19. According to the company's explanation, 'APX-115' inhibits the infection of the coronavirus in the cell, thereby fundamentally preventing infection. Also, it already has the effect of treating the infected cells and proved the function of treating pneumonia and lung fibrosis. Viruses penetrate cells through ACE2, a receptor protein in the human body. It moves through the endosome, which acts as a mass transfer agent in the cell and replicates RNA through the cell nucleus to spread the virus in the body. Here, the coronavirus has a protein protrusion that strongly binds to the ACE2 receptor and thus has higher infectivity than other viruses. In the process of virus penetration, AptaBio's 'APX-115' hinders the enzyme 'NOX2' in the endosome and inhibits reactive oxygen species (ROS), thereby preventing viral migration through the endosome and infecting cells. Moreover, 'APX-115' was confirmed to be effective in killing infected cells, which is a similar function to the current COVID-19 treatment candidate' Remdesivir.' 'APX-115' also showed an effect on acute pneumonia and lung fibrosis, the main symptoms of COVID-19. Therefore, the company explained that the treatment would be possible by inhibiting the enzyme 'NOX4' in the body, which is the cause of pneumonia and lung fibrosis. AptaBio plans to conduct a phase 2 clinical trial on COVID-19 patients soon. Through the trial, the company intends to confirm the efficacy and proper dosage of 'APX-115.'
GlaxoSmithKline's Efforts to Overcome COVID-19
As a global pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is participating in a worldwide effort to overcome COVID-19, both internally and externally. Externally, GSK is providing its science and expertise to support the development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. At the same time, it has been continuously conducting activities to support the community and medical staff working at the forefront of the field. Internally, GSK is building an industry-leading system to efficiently improve the work environment changed by COVID-19 and improve the health and well-being of its employees. The details are as follows. ▣ Expanding technical support and cooperation to develop COVID-19 vaccine candidates GSK offers its core technology, the adjuvant platform technology, to strengthen international cooperation for the development of the vaccine. The adjuvant technology is a particularly valuable technique in epidemic outbreaks where vaccines must be rapidly provided to many people, as they can produce more vaccine doses with a small amount of vaccine antigen. Based on the cooperation with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in February, GSK has provided its adjuvant technology to the COVID-19 program, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia. Also, the company entered the collaboration with Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a Chinese biotechnology company. GSK supported the adjuvant technology for the evaluation of S-Trimer candidates for the vaccine in the preclinical research phase. On top of that, it announced that it would research vaccines of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses in cooperation with Vir Biotechnology, which has its monoclonal antibody platform technology. Promising antibody candidates for SARS-CoV-2 are expected to enter Phase II clinical trials within the next 3-5 months. ▣ Providing funding and emergency aid for medical staff GSK provided financial support for medical staff working in the field with a donation of $10 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, established by the United Nations organization and WHO. It is also donating extra reagents to help with diagnostic tests in many countries and is preparing to support additional personal protective equipment for medical staff. ▣ Supporting physical and mental health care for employees GSK is striving to create an advanced corporate culture that manages employees' health and well-being to increase employee engagement. Immediately after the spread of COVID-19, the company has established and implemented employee safety measures and work emergency measures under the in-house global issue management team. GSK also provides support measures that cover both physical and mental aspects. First, the company distributed the COVID-19 related employee safety guide and operated a hub site that provides epidemiological information. Multivitamin Centrum was provided for employee health management, and consulting services for mental health management such as isolation, alienation, and fatigue caused by social distance. At the same time, it provides an external instructor education program with the theme of "Improving psychological immunity to overcome COVID-19." Education programs for physical and mental health are also available through the "Keep Growing site" designed for the steady self-development of GSK employees worldwide. ▣ Strengthening technology support system for routinizing digitalization GSK has been building a digital-based work environment, such as vitalizing telecommuting and supporting infrastructure for video conferencing. The company plans to further complement the digital work environment and further systematize the infrastructure that has been built by taking advantage of the company-wide telecommuting. Starting with the reorganization of communication networks for online meetings and support for items such as headsets, guided training for overall telecommuting, and company support system inspection through employee surveys were conducted. Besides, GSK doubled the capacity of the intranet connection network and operated the "Help Lounge" to solve inquiries related to telecommuting, minimizing the inconvenience of employees due to sudden changes in the work environment.
IBS Researchers Completed High-Resolution Genetic Map of SARS-CoV-2
The research team of the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) has completed a high-resolution genetic map of SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the cause of COVID-19 infections in cooperation with the Korea Center for Disease Control. Professor Kim Bit-naeri, a head of RNA Research Division, and Professor Jang Hye-shik of the Life Science Department of the SNU led the research team. The team analyzed all RNA transcripts that produce SARS coronavirus 2 in host cells by using two types of next-generation sequencing methods; nanopore direct RNA sequencing and DNA nanoball sequencing. In this analysis, not only the exact location of the virus gene was found, but also RNAs that had not been identified by conventional methods were found, and at least 41 sites of the chemical modifications of the virus RNA occurred. This made it possible to understand how a virus transcriptome is constructed and to pinpoint where the virus genes are located in the genome. That is, a map to solve the complex and hidden secrets of the SARS coronavirus 2 has been found. Moreover, by producing big data for genomes and transcriptomes, it became possible to provide various information for further research. ▲ The life cycle of SARS coronavirus 2 (Image from IBS) This is how it works. SARS coronavirus 2 contains an RNA-type gene, not DNA. Viruses penetrate host cells and replicate genomic RNA containing genetic information, and at the same time, transcribe various subgenomic RNA based on the genomic RNA. These subgenomes synthesize several proteins such as spikes, envelopes, etc. that make up the particle structure of the virus and form a completed virus in the host cell with the cloned genes. The virus then escapes the cell and infect the new cells. In previous studies, genomic information of SARS coronavirus 2 was reported, but it remained at the level of predicting the location of the gene based on genomic RNA information. In this study, the research team experimentally identified subgenome RNAs produced from genomic RNAs and analyzed the genetic information of each transcriptome to find exactly where genes are located on genomic RNAs. Previously, it was known that there were 10 subgenomic RNAs, but this experiment confirmed that only 9 subgenomic RNAs actually exist. The team has found dozens of more species of RNA produced within the cell. Besides, it was identified that various types of recombinations of subgenomic RNA such as fusion and deletion also frequently occur. What's more, the team found chemical modifications such as methylation in virus RNA. Various biochemical changes occurring in RNA after transcription are called "epitranscriptomes," as several biochemical changes at the DNA level are called "epigenomes." RNAs that have been modified after transcription may have new and unknown properties, so this modification will help to understand the life cycle and pathogenicity of SARS coronavirus 2. ▲ Genomic RNA and subgenomic RNA composition of SARS coronavirus 2, schematic diagram of viral particle structure (Image from IBS) The study is expected to contribute to understanding the proliferation principle of the virus, improving diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and developing new treatment strategies by providing rich information and detailed maps of the SARS coronavirus 2. The findings of the study were published in the online edition of Cell, on April 9th.
COVID-19 Pandemic: Smokers Officially Became One of the At-Risk Groups
Among those infected with COVID-19 in China, the fatality rate of people without underlying disease is only 1.4%. That of heart disease patients is 13.2%, diabetic patients is 9.2%, hypertensive patients is 8.4%, and the patients with chronic respiratory disease is 8.0%. The previously identified risk groups of coronavirus were people who are over 65 or have chronic diseases - for example, hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with a weak immune system and breathing conditions are also included. Based on this, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (hereinafter MOHW), a branch of the government of South Korea, is trying to take special care on high-risk groups of coronavirus. Among the people who registered for Visiting Health Management, MOHW plans to phone the elderly aged 65 or older and suffering from chronic diseases more than once every two weeks to check if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. Recently, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (hereinafter KCDC) announced to strengthen management by adding smokers to high-risk groups of COVID-19. It has been constantly raised that the use of smoking booths can cause the spread of the infection. (Image by Daedong Hospital) Korean Association of Smoking and Health (KASH) and Korean Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (KSRNT) analyzed COVID-19 infections in China by quoting various studies, including the WHO reports. As a result, the ratio of men and women is similar, but because of the high rate of men in severe patients and mortality, China's high male smoking rate was cited as the leading cause. Cigarette smoke contains at least 70 carcinogens, thousands of toxic chemicals, nicotine, and carbon monoxide, causing tissue damage and inflammatory reactions in the body, leading to a decrease in body immunity and vitality, and creating a favorable environment for viruses. Therefore, smokers are more likely to develop respiratory infections than non-smokers and cause diseases such as atherosclerosis, cerebrovascular, and cardiovascular as well as cancers such as lung cancer. "If you are unable to quit smoking by yourself, it is better to take advantage of a smoking cessation clinic or a smoking cessation service at a nearby medical institution. When using a smoking booth, since it is a space where many people smoke and talk or spit, it can cause droplet infection. So you should avoid talking and spitting as much as possible in the smoking booth." - Daedong Hospital, designated hospital for smoking cessation treatment by MOHW, advised. When considering the possibility of infection due to smoking, as well as the risk of chronic disease or lung disease among smokers, it is time to stop smoking. However, as it is an individual's choice to stop smoking, it is essential to recognize the seriousness of the situation and practice smoking cessation on their own.
GeneMatrix Signed Export Contract with Italy for Its COVID-19 Test Kit
On April 7, GeneMatrix(CEO Soo-Ok Kim), a Korean company servicing molecular diagnostics, announced that it had signed an export contract with Italy for its COVID-19 detection kit, "NeoPlex™ COVID-19." With this agreement, GeneMatrix will supply NeoPlex COVID-19 to Italy in earnest. The contract amount is US$288,000, which is about 1.5 times higher than the previous contract. GeneMatrix stated, "Italy is now one of the most affected regions of COVID-19 in Europe, and there is a continuing need for test kits. After the product was supplied to Italy in March, we verified the accuracy and reliability of NeoPlex COVID-19 in the field and achieved an additional order contract." GeneMatrix signed a contract for the supply of NeoPlex COVID-19 worth of US$472,000 to the UAE last month, and on the 6th of this month, an additional agreement of US$450,000 was closed. NeoPlex COVID-19 is explained to have been well received in the field because it performs a batch examination with one tube, and analyzes accurately, easily, and quickly. The company said, "The continuous sales are also generated in the Middle East by securing trust in the products and closing additional contracts. GeneMatrix is currently working closely with diagnostic companies from around the world to proceed with exports to Europe and the United States."
Humasis Becomes The First Korean Company to Sign Supply Contracts with Brazilian Company for COVID-19 Test Kit
A Korean in vitro diagnostic manufacturing company, Humasis(CEO Jeong Hak Cha) will import its COVID-19 test kits to Brazil. On April 6, Humasis announced that it has entered into an import contract with the Brazilian supplier for its 'COVID-19 IgG/IgM test', a product for rapid test kit of COVID-19 antibody. On March 27, Humasis obtained an export permit for the test kit product from Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. With this contract, Humasis became the first diagnostic company to supply Korean test kits to the Brazilian market. Therefore, starting with the first shipment in April, a total of 1 million COVID-19 test kits will be exported to Brazil. The contract was supported by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). Based in Brazil, KOTRA Sao Paulo has been connecting Korean diagnostic companies with Brazilian buyers belonging to private research institutes, state governments, and municipalities. Humasis plans to supply COVID-19 test kits not only to Brazil but also to European countries such as Italy and Germany, and to Indonesia, Canada, the Middle East, and Africa. Over 30 countries have already requested the test kits from Humasis. Humasis has grasped the total quantity requested by these countries to about 3 million and has switched to an emergency production system to meet this. It is judged that there will not be much difficulty in supplying the requested quantity as it is possible to produce up to 2.5 million test kits per month by introducing new automatic equipment earlier this year.
KRPIA and Its Members Support to Overcome COVID-19 With "Hope Green Campaign" and Donations
On April 2, Korea Research-based Pharma Industry Association (hereinafter KRPIA) announced that it has supported General Support Center for the Elderly Living Alone by donating KRW 23 million. The donation was collected through matching funds and individual donations of KRPIA's members as a part of the "Hope Green Campaign." The individual donations collected by all members will be used for daily necessities and hygiene products needed for the elderly living alone, the vulnerable social group suffering from COVID-19. The "Hope Green Campaign", conducted by KRPIA and its global pharmaceutical members, participated in the community's efforts to overcome COVID-19, such as donating KRW 100 million for medical staffs and encouraging employees to participate in blood donation voluntarily. What's more, as well as participating in the "Hope Green Campaign," the member companies also conducted various donations and CSR activities. The details are as follows. AbbVie Korea donated KRW 30 million through the Republic of Korea National Red Cross to support medical supplies needed by medical staff at treatment sites in Daegu-Gyeongbuk area, which has been declared a special disaster area for infectious diseases. Bayer Korea's Specialized Medicine and Contrast Media Business Division supported 280 CT contrast media worth KRW 13 million for contrast-enhanced chest CT scanning of patients with severe COVID-19. Its Consumer Health Division provided vitamines to Wolseong Social Welfare Center in Daegu to cheer for the overcoming of COVID-19. On top of that, its Veterinary Medicine Division is providing one pack (1kg) of "Virkon-S" each to 500 veterinary hospitals for the prevention and management. Virkon-S is an antiseptic that kills major pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Ferring Pharmaceuticals Korea purchased 2,000 hand sanitizers and 200 protective clothing through donations voluntarily raised by employees and donated them to the Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters of Daegu Metropolitan City. Gilead Sciences Korea donated KRW 100 million to the Hope Bridge Association of the National Disaster Relief to support the vulnerable social group. Johnson & Johnson's four operations in Korea (Medical, Janssen, Vision, and Consumer), along with the Salvation Army, supported 20,000 KF94 masks worth KRW 200 million and 4,000 emergency relief kits to medical volunteers and vulnerable social group across the country, including Daegu. In addition, a total of 1,518 Neutrogena products for medical staff and patients' moisturizing care were delivered to the Korean Red Cross in Daegu and Korea University Medical Center. Through the Korean Red Cross in Daegu, they donated 10,000 Listerine mouthwash products to Daegu regional hospitals. Also, the donations raised by the voluntary participation of employees will be used in the campaign to donate masks for social service workers. Menarini Korea raised voluntary donations from employees to help the Daegu area struggling with COVID-19. The donation was delivered through the Daegu Branch of the Community Chest of Korea so that it could be used for medical supplies necessary for the prevention of COVID-19. Mundipharma Korea donated hygiene kits to overcome COVID-19 to the Seoul Branch of Korea Association of Community Children's Center(KACCC) to help protect children and adolescents in the new school year from infectious diseases and respiratory diseases. Novartis Korea also participated in the efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It donated 30,000 masks offered by its global headquarters to People for Share Hope for the vulnerable social group who are having difficulty in getting masks. Novo Nordisk Pharma Korea has set up a COVID-19 donation box, and the raised amount will be donated along with the money from the auction sale of goods donated by employees through "Auction Day." Pfizer Korea raised KRW 100 million funds through the voluntary donation of employees and the matching funds. The fund has been delivered to vulnerable social groups and medical staff working at COVID-19 treatment sites, including the Daegu-Gyeongbuk area through the Hope Bridge Association of the National Disaster Relief. Roche Korea, in the name of "One Roche" along with Roche Diagnostics Korea, donated KRW 100 million joint funds to the Community Chest of Korea for the vulnerable social groups. Sanofi (Sanofi-aventis Korea and Sanofi Pasteur), as a part of the social responsibility "One Foundation Day," provided a set of women's daily necessities worth KRW 40 million to 750 women medical volunteers in the COVID-19 dedicated hospitals and public health centers in Daegu. As such, a lot of effort is being made to improve the situation that has been changed by COVID-19 as soon as possible.
COVID-19 Pandemic : South Korea Moon Jae-in Government KCDC's War Against the Novel Coronavirus
▲ COVID-19 is threatening the world (Image from JHU CEES) COVID-19, which occurred in Wuhan, China in December 2019, has spread worldwide and bogs us down. Looking at global figures, the number of confirmed patients had been in a slight increase since the beginning of March, and it started to increase rapidly since the second week. In just one week, the number of confirmed patients increased by 260,000. As of 27 March, the total number of confirmed patients is 531,708, and the total number of deaths is 24,053, showing a mortality rate of about 4.5%. With the power of COVID-19 uncovered in a twinkling, the world is now in an emergency. Experts predicted that not only the global GDP and the consumer price index but also the global growth would decline. The decline in economic activity has already occurred. People are canceling trips, meetings, and working at home due to policies. We are just waiting for the end of this situation at home. In South Korea, the number of confirmed patients was at the stable status until mid-February, but showed a sharp upward trend of more than 100 patients every day until mid-March due to collective infection. Although it has recently entered a stable phase again, about 82.4% of the confirmed patients have been identified to be related to collective infection, so it is crucial to reduce the likelihood of future collective spread. As of 27 March, the cumulative number of confirmed patients is 9,332, and the total number of deaths is 139. A lot of effort is being made to improve the situation that has been changed by COVID-19 as soon as possible. Fortunately, it has been said that the quarantine against COVID-19 in South Korea is outstanding. The World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out South Korea as one of the best practices for COVID-19 response. Currently, the quarantine against COVID-19 in South Korea is proceeding forward under the leadership of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (hereinafter KCDC, http://www.cdc.go.kr/). ▲ Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) publishes the results of epidemiological investigations of confirmed patients every day (Image from KCDC) Quarantine measures that KCDC is undertaking to overcome COVID-19 include (a) epidemiological investigation systems, (b) inbound traveler inspections, (c) publicity campaigns, and (d) treatments and preventive vaccines R&D. ■ Transparent and Rapid Epidemiological Investigation System First of all, KCDC publishes epidemiological investigation results transparently every day. For more detailed information about the route, etc., anyone can check through the site operated by each district office. On 26 March, KCDC announced that it officially launches the “COVID-19 Epidemiological Investigation Support System”. This system automates the epidemiological investigation procedure to supplement the results of interviews with confirmed persons and enables real-time analysis of big data. Therefore, it becomes possible to automatically identify the moving line of the confirmed patient and the points of stay by timeline, and to analyze various statistical data such as the large-scale outbreak area and the source of infection in the area. ■ Strengthened Inbound Traveler Inspections In light of the rise in the percentage of imported cases, KCDC is strengthening screening at port entry. Since 22 March, every inbound traveler from Europe is required to be tested, and starting on 27, a stronger screening process is applied for inbound travelers from the United States. All inbound travelers must first install the mobile “Self Health Check” app and submit the status. All symptomatic persons will be diagnosed at the airport quarantine station regardless of nationality. The asymptomatic persons will enter self-quarantine for 14 days, and they should install “Self-Quarantine Safety Protection” app to receive intensive management from the local public entity. As such, KCDC is thoroughly carrying out without missing the management of self-quarantine persons. ▲ It is easy to know the prevention rules through the posters (Image from Ichon Global Village Center) ■ Extensive Publicity Campaigns KCDC has been promoting the “Social Distancing Campaign” since the end of February. The campaign, first of all, is recommending to follow basic precautions such as washing your hands with soap and running water, covering your mouth and nose with sleeve when coughing, and wearing a mask. Also, refrain from going out and expanding working from home are included. Since 22 March, the KCDC urged everyone to participate in enhanced “Social Distancing Campaign” for 15 days (22 March – 5 April). However, since the possibility of psychological problems such as feeling of depression or alienation increases when the relationship with neighbors is cut off by practicing ‘social distancing', KCDC has started a “Free Professional Psychological Counseling” as part of a campaign for psychological quarantine. In this campaign, more than 230 professors of psychological counseling and certified first-class psychological counseling experts participated voluntarily and showed high civic consciousness. ■ Participation in R&D on Treatments and Preventive Vaccines On 26 March, KCDC announced that it will develop COVID-19 antibody treatment and preventive vaccine in cooperation with domestic companies. The development of monoclonal antibody therapeutics that can be obtained through antibodies of recovered patient’s blood will be cooperated with Celltrion. The development of preventive vaccines using synthetic antigen (subunit) technology will be progressed with SK Bioscience. Through this cooperative R&D, candidate materials development and efficacy evaluation will be conducted, and clinical studies will also be supported when candidate materials with proven efficacy are selected. This is possible because of the outstanding technology of KCDC and domestic companies. On 10 March, KCDC National Health Research Institute succeeded in producing a protein (aka 'probe') that detects COVID-19 antibody in the blood. Moreover, the immunofluorescence assay (IFA) required for the development of therapeutic agents had also been secured. ▲ As of the 20th, the total COVID-19 tests performed by country (Image from Our World in Data) COVID-19 quarantine, centered on KCDC, will not be able to succeed without (a) the domestic companies’ supporting technologies, (b) local governments' efforts, and (c) civic consciousness. ■ Remarkable Korean Testing Kits The Korean testing kit is regarded as excellent in that it has achieved three major features: securing rapid inspection methods, constructing a national inspection system, and simplifying administrative procedures. In addition, through the newly developed real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test method, it was possible to diagnose COVID-19 infection within 6 hours. As of the 26th, an average of 20,000 tests are being conducted per day, and a total of 340,000 accumulated tests had been conducted in South Korea. For novel COVID-19 inspection, five testing kit product companies received emergency use approval by KFDA, which are Cogene Biotech, Seegene, SolGent, SD Biosensor, and BioSewoom. Of these, Seegene's testing kit (Allplex™ 2019-nCoV Assay), which features 98% accuracy and large capacity, has been exported to the United States at the request of President Trump. Besides, domestic pharmaceutical and bio companies such as GeneMatrix and LabGenomics are currently shipping testing kits or ready to export. ■ “Drive-Thru” COVID-19 Testing Centers In order to reduce the infection in the diagnosis process, the drive-thru COVID-19 testing center was first launched in Goyang city last month. This system was introduced to major media in the world as well as domestically, and was praised for being innovative. A driver does not have to get out of a car and only needs to open a window to be checked for fever or have samples taken by medical staff in protective suits. The system has a significant advantage that the entire process takes less than 10 minutes, unlike the previous tests, which took up to an hour or more to disinfect the office every time the patient went. The drive-thru designated clinics are currently being deployed and operated in various local governments nationwide. As of 25 March, there are 79 designated clinics with a drive-thru testing system. Meanwhile, recently, there has been a tendency to create drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers, mainly in the United States. ▲ The survey shows mature civic consciousness to overcome COVID-19 (Image from COVID-19 National Risk Awareness Survey) ■ High Civic Consciousness Last but not least, mature civic consciousness helps to take a step closer to overcoming domestic COVID-19. According to a survey conducted on 1,000 men and women across the country, people are well-practicing quarantine in daily life, such as 'observing personal hygiene rules' and 'keeping social distances'. It was found that they are doing their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with the thought of 'the subject of quarantine.' In addition, to overcome COVID-19, about 160,000 volunteers from across the country participated in various activities such as disinfection and quarantine, support for self-quarantine persons, and distribution of goods. At the end of February, when the number of patients in the Daegu and Gyeongbuk regions rapidly increased, and the number of medical staff was insufficient, 800 medical staff volunteered and showed high civic consciousness. Furthermore, a number of people are participating in donations to overcome COVID-19. In conclusion, efforts for novel COVID-19 quarantine in South Korea are being carried out in numerous places, so it is believed that South Korea is currently entering a “stable state.” However, with going into April, the beginning of elementary, middle, and high schools and the end of the ‘working from home’ period of many companies should not be overlooked. Until the development of vaccines and therapies has been completed after the end of COVID-19, we cannot rest assured. The efforts of citizens and the government as they are today are still needed.
AprilBio-Celros Biotech Signs a Joint Research Agreement for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Dual Antibody Treatment
On April 24, AprilBio, the new drug bio venture, announced that it has signed a joint research agreement with Celros Biotech, the inflammatory drug development company, for dual antibody treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (hereinafter IBD). Both companies plan to develop therapeutics using Celros Biotech's antibody and inflammation control source technology, and AprilBio's anti-Serum Albumin Fab-Associated (SAFA) platform source technology and antibody conjugation technology. Inflammatory bowel disease is a disease in which abnormal chronic inflammation in the large and small intestine improves and recurs repeatedly. The therapeutic efficacy of current therapeutic antibodies is only 30%, so unmet medical demand is high. The agreement presents a new concept that the therapeutic effect can be significantly improved by stably double-binding the antibody developed by Celros Biotech with the existing SAFA technology of AprilBio. "SAFA technology is a platform technology applicable to various drugs and mechanisms, so the effectiveness of SAFA technology can be highly appreciated through the joint development of innovative new drugs for IBD," said Sang-Hoon Cha, CEO at AprilBio. "We are pleased to cooperate with AprilBio, which has abundant experience and source technology in double-antibody binding. We hope not only to discover new anti-drug candidates effective for the treatment of IBD, but also to continue to cooperate and develop global innovative new drugs with AprilBio in the future," said Yoon-Soo Bae, CEO at Celros Biotech.
POSTECH Developed Stem Cell Therapy for Myocardial Infarction Using Mussel Adhesive Protein
The initial mortality rate of myocardial infarction is 30%. Since myocardial infarction is a disease directly connected to life, it is known that more than 50% of patients die even before they go to the hospital. Because of this, fast and active treatment is significant to prevent myocardial infarction from reaching a heart attack. Recently, a research team from POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology) has developed an effective stem cell therapy for myocardial infarction using mussel's powerful and harmless protein and stem cells. POSTECH research team led by Prof. Hyung Joon CHA and Tae Yoon PARK developed "adhesive liquid cell carrier" with The Catholic University of Korea research team led by Prof. Sung Bo SIM and Prof. Jongho LEE. The "adhesive liquid cell carrier" allows the transplant to be maintained for a long time by using a phase separation phenomenon of mussel adhesive protein (MAP) to form a coacervated type so that mesenchymal stem cells are easily captured, and stem cells are efficiently transferred between damaged myocardial tissues. In particular, it is expected to be a revolutionary method for the treatment of myocardial infarction as it can be mass-produced. ▲ Myocardial Infarction Stem Cell Therapy (Material provided by POSTECH) The heart is a central organ that circulates blood while repeating contraction and relaxation by electrical signals. When the blood vessels of the heart are blocked by blood clots, it is challenging to supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart, and muscle cells and blood vessels surrounding them will be extremely damaged. It is myocardial infarction that necrosis occurs in the myocardial wall, and the wall becomes thinner. Since the heart cannot regenerate itself once it has been damaged, there is no way to regenerate the damaged heart muscle dramatically. So in severe cases, it becomes necessary to put on a mechanical device or transplant another heart. Recently, as a future treatment technology, studies have been actively conducted to transplant stem cells into damaged myocardial tissues and make them regenerate. However, the transplanted stem cells have significantly reduced transplant rates due to poor and extreme myocardial environment. And even if the transplant succeeds, most die soon. Stem cell treatment for myocardial infarction requires two conditions that can withstand the environment of the damaged myocardium. The first is that the stem cells must be efficiently transplanted and left for a long time between the heart's high blood pressure, rapid blood flow, and myocardial tissue thinned by myocardial infarction. Second, the transplanted stem cells must rapidly integrate with existing surrounding tissues to build blood vessels and improve viability. However, until now, it was complicated for stem cells to be successfully delivered to the damaged myocardial tissue and to maintain the transplant. The joint research team made the stem cell self-capture in the process of making a liquid coacervate. Then, the resulting stem cell treatment was efficiently implanted by injecting it into the thinned damaged myocardial wall. Through animal experiments, it was confirmed that the transplanted stem cells survived the damaged myocardial tissue for a long time based on the adhesion and the ability to form blood vessels of MAP materials and the biomolecular efficacy of the stem cells. Furthermore, new blood vessels were formed in the damaged myocardial tissue, prevented the further killing of existing myocardial cells, and relieved fibromyalgia to restore the damaged myocardial wall. The new stem cell carrier developed through research is expected to play a critical role in the stem cell therapy market as it uses biocompatible biomaterials that are harmless to the human body. The results of this study were published online in the Journal of Controlled Release, the world's leading authority in the field of drug delivery.
POSTECH Developed Rapid Virus Diagnostic Technology Using Aptamer
COVID-19 is threatening the world, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic 11 years after the H1N1 Flu. When such a highly contagious and lethal new epidemic occurs, preventive measures are needed, such as quickly locating the infected person and separating the infected person from others. The most important thing here is to diagnose the virus quickly. POSTECH(Pohang University of Science and Technology) researchers have developed a diagnostic method that can determine whether a person is infected in 15 minutes using an aptamer (nucleic acid substance), which is a type of molecular capture. This method, which can be used for all new viruses, is expected to be used not only for examination but also for treatment. ▲ A diagram of viro-SELEX method (Image by POSTECH) The POSTECH research team including Prof. Sung Key Jang, Dr. Jun Young Kwon, and Dr. Narayan developed a new aptamer discovery method ("viro-SELEX") with Aptamer Sciences Inc. By using the new method, viro-SELEX, the research team developed a rapid diagnostic method to determine whether an influenza virus had infected within 15 minutes with high sensitivity and specificity. This research achievement was published one after another in the related journals, "Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology" and "Analyst." The virus diagnostic methods include molecular, antigen/antibody, and cell culture diagnosis. The currently used method for COVID-19 is a molecular diagnosis, which is sensitive, but requires samples to be sent to a specialized analytical facility for analysis, takes more than 6 hours to analyze, and is expensive. Cell culture diagnostic method takes too long (2-4 weeks) and is not suitable for large-scale testing. In addition, the diagnosis method of the COVID-19 virus using antigen/antibody has not been developed yet. Unfortunately, in the case of COVID-19, a real-time diagnostic method for directly testing a sample is not developed. Aptamers are nucleic acid materials composed of DNA or RNA. They are a kind of molecular captures that bind with high specificity and affinity to various targets ranging from simple low-molecular compounds to high-molecular substances such as proteins. DNA aptamers are highly stable and easy to transport and store. And, if only the base sequence is known, it can be synthesized in large quantities at a low production cost and is considered as a material to replace antibodies. ▲ A diagram of rapid diagnostic kit and a picture of showing the existence of virus through changes in color (Image by POSTECH) Aptamers are discovered through a process called SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential Enrichment). In the case of viruses, it was difficult to find aptamers using the existing SELEX method because the envelope protein used as a target is a membrane protein. Therefore, instead of separating and purifying membrane proteins separately, the research team recombined baculovirus to target the spike protein of the virus. The team then separated and purified the recombined virus to invent viro-SELEX method, which is used for SELEX. Based on this method, the team discovered a new aptamer that acts on the spike protein (hemagglutinin, HA) of the influenza virus. In addition, by using a pair of aptamers that bind to different parts of the spike protein (hemagglutinin, HA), it has succeeded in developing a diagnostic kit that can diagnose whether a virus infected with only changes of the color, like a pregnancy diagnostic kit. With this device, 15 minutes is enough to check for infection. "Using the newly developed viro-SELEX method, aptamers with high specificity and binding ability to the spike protein of COVID-19 virus can be identified. With these aptamers, a quick diagnostic kit can be made immediately. When these aptamers bind to the spike protein of coronavirus, they can prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells. As such, it is expected to use aptamers as a therapeutic agent," said Prof. Sung Key Jang, Department of Life Sciences, POSTECH.
MDimune Acquired US Patent for BioDrone Source Technology
On March 18th, MDimune, a Korean theranostic company that focuses on researching and developing BioDrone, announced that it received a patent registration decision for BioDrone source technology from United States Patents and Trademark Office. BioDrone technology possessed by MDimune is a platform technology that produces exosomes of extrusion method and develops them as a treatment for various incurable diseases. The technology is attracting attention as a next-generation drug delivery technology capable of selectively delivering desired drugs to specific lesion tissues. MDimune, which produces the world's only exosomes of extrusion method with its own technology, has obtained a patent in the US following Korea, China, Japan, and Europe. Therefore, the company now has a competitive edge in the global market for exosome treatment development. Exosomes are derived from cells and are substances that function in vivo. It is receiving attention as a promising carrier that can deliver drugs to specific cells, thereby reducing side effects and maximizing the effect. However, exosomes secreted during cell culture are not highly productive, and the types of raw cells that can be used are limited. MDimune's BioDrone source technology overcame these limitations and has the advantage of increasing exosome productivity and utilizing various raw cells by direct extrusion method. MDimune, which focuses on the development of treatments for incurable diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using BioDrone technology, is planning a full-scale clinical study next year. Recently, the company has begun joint research on anti-cancer drugs with Ildong Pharmaceutical. MDimune is also actively pursuing partnerships with overseas companies to preoccupy the global market. "With this US patent registration, we will become a company that can give dreams and hopes to patients with incurable diseases through the development of innovative treatments based on the BioDrone platform," said Shingyu Bae, CEO of MDimune.
Philosys Healthcare Signed Supply Contracts with German and Greek Companies for COVID-19 Test Kit 'Gmate COVID-19'
On 13th, Philosys HealthCare announced that it had signed an overseas supply contract for the COVID-19 test kit, "Gmate COVID-19".The contractors are TAHA Life Science in Germany and GNP Diagnostic in Greece. In Germany, the number of confirmed patients has increased five times recently, and Greece is in an emergency with COVID-19, including the first death.TAHA Life Science(annual sales of about $16.3million) is a pharmaceutical company based in Europe and the Middle East, and GNP(annual sales of about $8.2million) is a specialist in vitro diagnostic medical device in Europe. The contract size is known to be $5.4million ($2.7million each).Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the initial response is important because the COVID-19 has high propagation power in mild conditions. The currently used RT-PCR method is not an on-site diagnosis, so the collected sample should be transported to a specialized facility such as a laboratory. So, there is a concern of deterioration or mixing during transport of the specimen, and it is pointed out as a disadvantage that the result value may be different depending on the experimental skill of the professional personnel conducting the inspection.Philosys Healthcare's Gmate COVID-19 takes an immunoassay method that needs only 20 minutes to conduct an on-site test. With the accuracy of 93%, it is not very different from the RT-PCR, attracting attention from overseas countries.The company said, "This patent, which was jointly filed with Philosys Healthcare's affiliated company, Philosys, has greatly increased the sensitivity and accuracy of the immunoassay method. The Sandwich Immunoassay method, which applied this patent technology, is a way to shake the strainer and pick only the coronaviruses."
Sanofi Launches Once-Weekly Dosing Treatment of Hemophilia B in Korea
On March 12th, Sanofi-Aventis Korea, the local offshoot of the global healthcare company Sanofi, has launched Alprolix, a recombinant FIX Fc fusion protein (rFIXFc; eftrenonacog alfa), in Korea. Alprolix was permitted as a routine prophylactic treatment for inhibition and prevention of bleeding, management before and after surgery (inhibition and prevention of bleeding during surgical procedures), and reduction and prevention of bleeding frequency in patients with hemophilia B. There are 427 patients with hemophilia B in Korea (as of 2018). Prophylactic treatment, a periodic administration of blood coagulation factors, prevents chronic arthrosis and bleeding in hemophilia patients. So far, for patients with hemophilia B to use conventional standard half-life treatments, 25 to 40 IU/kg of blood coagulation factor had to be dosed intravenously twice a week. However, since Alprolix (eftrenonacog alfa) has an Fc fusion protein technology that increases the half-life of blood coagulation factor IX by approximately 2.4 times compared to the standard half-life treatment, it became possible to dose only once a week (50 IU/kg) or once every 10-14 days (100 IU/kg). In addition, treatment convenience and quality of life have been improved, and it is expected that pediatric patients who have difficulty in administering injections due to trouble finding veins may benefit. Alprolix (eftrenonacog alfa) confirmed the effectiveness and safety profile through B-LONG clinical studies. With this treatment, the annual bleeding rate of the prophylactic treatment group decreased significantly compared to the administration group when bleeding occurred. Besides, in a total of 636 bleeding episodes during clinical trials, 97.3% was controlled with only 1 to 2 injections. In B-YOND, the long-term extension study of B-LONG, neutralizing antibodies (inhibitors) were not detected during the four-year study period. Alprolix (eftrenonacog alfa) introduced a hard case-type package that can store products safely and is easy to carry. The reusable hard case contains a vial, a vial adapter, a pre-filled syringe, and a plunger rod to increase portability, and is designed to safely secure components such as vials that could be easily damaged by external impact.
G+FLAS Life Sciences Acquired Patent for New Types of CRISPR
G+FLAS Life Sciences Co., Ltd. (CEO Sunghwa Choe), a biotech startup company in Korea, announced that it obtained a patent for new materials related to CRISPR. The company is then speeding up the development of gene therapy products and new varieties.G+FLAS Life Sciences is committed to developing related products such as anti-cancer drugs based on the third-generation genetic scissors technology, CRISPR(Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). CRISPR is used to recognize specific sequences of human and animal cells as well as microorganisms, and to precisely cut the DNA of the site. When DNA is cleaved, abnormal genes in the cell are corrected to normal, or induced by malfunctioning mutations through their repairing process.The patented materials are two types of CRISPR-related protein, "Cas12a". "Cas12a" has a function of cutting double helix DNA just like "Cas9", the most commonly used CRISPR. On top of that, "Cas12a" has the advantage of correcting the target sequence more accurately. G+FLAS Life Sciences also laid the foundation for mass production of highly functional enzymes by optimizing protein sequences to improve separation and purification efficiency in the industrial production of "Cas12a" protein.The bioinformatics team in G+FLAS Life Sciences selected candidates for high-performance putative genetic scissors from the tens of thousands of candidates loaded into the microbial metagenome database to discover "Cas12a". Candidate genes were successfully expressed after the protein was reconstituted to facilitate the expression of E. coli. The isolated and purified genetic scissors have demonstrated excellent functionality in animal and plant cells after being combined with the CRISPR RNA and primarily verified functionality under vitroconditions.G+FLAS Life Sciences applied for a trademark by designating "Cas12a", which is a 3.5th generation genetic scissors with sophisticated genetic correction, as "gfCAS12a". In the future, the company plans to use it widely for developing ▲bio-new drugs such as gene therapy, ▲varietal improvement for producing high value-added agricultural products, ▲researching anti-cancer drugs with CRISPR, and ▲exporting technology.G+FLAS Life Sciences expects that the new genetic scissors technology and a plant-based biologics production platform will create outstanding synergies. The company is using its genetic scissors technology to correct sugar chain transferase of protein in host plants and developing humanized plants that simulate human systems to put in the protein production. Protein medicines produced by humanized plants are very similar to the structure of protein sugar chains produced in the human body, and therefore have low toxicity and excellent efficacy."There are few companies around the world which have found new CRISPR technology among the numerous genetic scissors sequences that exist in the bigdata form in the life information database. This patent acquisition is presenting the differentiated technology of G+FLAS Life Sciences. In the future, we will focus on developing the next generation genome editing system so that G+FLAS Life Sciences and bio-industry of Korea can lead the world's genetic engineering market," said Sunghwa Choe, CEO of G+FLAS Life Sciences.