Jing Yu
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VIRUSES FOR GOOD

Viral Biotechnology developed for StemCentrx R&D Pipeline

Viral Biotechnology developed for StemCentrx R&D Pipeline

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>> FIGHTING CANCER IS TOUGH

And everyday it gets tougher as low hanging solutions disappear behind competitive patents. For our scientists, old discovery methods weren’t working. 2016 was a year we committed to forging new technology to reach more promising grounds. This is the story of an innovation that came from a strange place – the common virus.

 
 
 

>> A BRIEF BACKGROUND ON HOW WE *CURE CANCER

 
#1 compare healthy vs cancerous cells

#1 compare healthy vs cancerous cells

#2 Produce molecules that target cancerous cells

#2 Produce molecules that target cancerous cells

#3 Test if molecules call kill cell in vivo (in a tube)

#3 Test if molecules call kill cell in vivo (in a tube)

 

* The term “curing cancer” isn’t quite right for a few reasons we use it for simplicity. This is our in-house framework for how we tried to find molecules that could kill cancer cells and leave normal cells alone.

 
 
 

>> OUR PROBLEM SPACE

At StemCentrx, we compare molecules called antigens as a way to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells. By 2016, the antigens left to pursue were so complex that studying them (let alone targeting them) became almost impossible. Over 40% of our old methods consistently failed to present the antigens we were trying to target.

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no antigens = no antibodies
no antibodies = no cancer drugs.
 
 

>> A VIRAL SOLUTION

At the cell & virus engineering department, we recognized the potential in the viruses we routinely produced to mimic complex antigens. Through some clever biological manipulation, we could leverage this expertise to force viruses to pull complex cancer antigens onto its surface and do our work for us.

 
Viruses are natural experts in pulling antigens from their host cells.
Viral particles are made in 10cm dishes like the ones shown here.

Viral particles are made in 10cm dishes like the ones shown here.

 
 

>> THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS OF LADS

The new system we developed was called the Lentiviral Antigen Delivery System (or LADS for short). LADS leverages viral biology and forces the LAD particle to display cancer targets. This process has the potential to unlock countless difficult targets. 

Our solution was novel. Viruses had not been examined like this before because, among other reasons, viruses too small to be examined using standard tools. I set on a path of hacking our available methods to verify the viral particles we made. I developed a new flow cytometer assay to mine empirical data from our prototype viruses. The result was evidence that our new system worked and exceeded any of our current in house antigen technologies. 

 
 
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COMPARING VIRAL PARTICLE SOLUTIONS TO OUR OTHER METHODS

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September 2016, LADS proof of concept experimental data was presented at our annual science meeting

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>> RESULTS

 
 
  • Successful proof-of-concept experiment presented at All-Hands Science Meeting 2015

  • Approved for additional funding to continue research

  • Established dedicated LADS team to improve technology

  • Increased production 10% and climbing

  • Approved for 4 trial production runs, 3 of which returned effective antibodies

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>> THE FUTURE FOR LADS

SCIENCE IS NEVER SATISFIED WITH ONE (OR 18) SUCCESSFUL DATA POINTS. ADDITIONAL EXPERIMENTATION NEEDED TO BE SUBMITTED TO REINFORCE THE PITCH THAT LADS IS A VIABLE OPTION TO TARGET DIFFICULT CANCER CELLS.

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Currently, an interdisciplinary team has been formed to perform diagnostic and characterization experiments on LADS. Together we have the means to validate LADS further as an antigen delivery system and hope to establish LADS as a powerful tool routinely used in cancer targeting.

Since the first few pilot experiments, LADS 2.0 has been an additional effort to clean up the particle. We are currently working to produce "naked" LADS that have as much irrelevant antigen removed as possible, this way the particle is 100% dedicated to mimicking cancer targets.

 

 

LADS Is A solo science project that I performed under the management of paul escarpe & Bob stull.