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Venture Fund Plans $350M for Biotech Start-Ups

Investment graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

5 Aug. 2020. A new venture fund plans investments in early-stage life science companies addressing critical needs in therapeutics, but also agriculture and industrial biotechnology. Data Collective DCVC in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California says it raised $350 million for its DCVC Bio II fund for start-up companies creating what it calls deep tech solutions for challenges presented by climate change and the global food supply, as well as health care.

DCVC Bio II follows its DCVC Bio I fund that began in 2018. Among the investments from the earlier fund reported on most recently by Science & Enterprise are AbCellera Biologics in Vancouver, British Columbia, developing engineered antibodies to treat Covid-19 infections with drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. In May, AbCellera raised $105 million in its second venture round, with DCVC taking part, as well as in AbCellera’s earlier venture round.

In June 2019, DCVC took part in the first venture round for Frontier Medicines Corp. in South San Francisco, a spin-off enterprise from labs at University of California in Berkeley, creating treatments that target cancer-causing proteins considered unreachable with current therapies. In addition, DCVC led the December 2018 seed round for GenEdit Inc. in Berkeley, California, also a UC – Berkeley spin-off business, developing nanoscale particles to deliver gene-editing enzymes, including those for Crispr.

DCVC says it raised the $350 million in its second fund completely during the pandemic, citing the increased public attention to biotechnology from the critical need for vaccines and treatments. The company says it’s looking for start-up biotech companies with solutions that can make a difference dealing with today’s pressing health problems, but also targeting the next pandemic or big climate emergency, easing disruptions in global food supply chains, or creating high-performance yet sustainable industrial materials.

DCVC cites AbCellera as an example of that kind of business, first developing a technology platform to address the overall global threat of pandemics, which enables its urgent response to today’s needs for therapies and vaccines to combat Covid-19. The company says its DCVC Bio II limited partners — part-owners providing investment capital, but not managing the fund — share the managers’ objectives and outlook.

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Why You Should Go Back To College for Science

– Contributed content –

Scientist in lab


5 Aug. 2020. As a grown adult you may find that you wouldn’t want to go back to college for fear of being ‘too old’. Many people adopt this mentality and refuse to reassess their career and pursue their dreams, simply because they fear standing out against a crowd of young people. Despite this negative stereotype of being ‘past it’, there are actually huge benefits of returning to college to study as an older student. If you have always had a passion for or interest in science but took a different path earlier in life, you might find happiness by going back to school and studying science!

Why study science?

It would be far shorter to list reasons why you should not study science! Look around, and you’ll realize that now more than ever is the time to become a scientist. Whether your interest lies in climate change; medical sciences; space travel and astrophysics; marine biology or something totally different, every single area of the sciences is under immense pressure right now.

So why not study science and be at the forefront of helping our world which is increasingly fragile? You could help protect endangered species! You could help the world understand space travel better! You could help keep the Earth cool and reduce global warming’s devastating effects! The possibilities are endless.

Why study as a mature student?

If you never went to college, or you attended college to study something else, you may wonder why it would be worth returning to study something new as an older person. So much of the college experience is wrapped up in being young; the parties, the relaxed lifestyle and the experimentation of your early twenties. However, college nowadays is so much more than this. As an older student you would be bringing life experience, knowledge and maturity to the table. You could make friends of all ages and collaborate with them. College isn’t all about being young, and it’s never too late to learn something new.

But what about the money?

That’s right – one of the main reasons people don’t go back to college is the debt incurred by doing so. It’s scary. Depending on your school of choice and state of residence, you could incur hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt by returning to college at a later age. If you have a family and/or are a homeowner, this could put pressure on your finances.

If you are concerned about debt, speak to a financial advisor about your options. It is always possible to achieve your dreams, and a financial advisor may be able to guide you through a different way of looking at your future financial situation. For example, studying an impressive scientific subject at college is likely to land you a higher-paying job which can help you and your family in the long run!

If you are concerned about pre-existing debt affecting your chances, see for more.

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NIH Begins Covid-19 Antibody Trials

Global Covid-19

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

5 Aug 2020. National Institutes of Health is beginning clinical trials of experimental antibody therapies to treat Covid-19 infections in people with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The first treatment tested in the mid- and late-stage studies is an engineered antibody developed by drug maker Eli Lilly and Co., biotechnology company AbCellera Biologics, and the Vaccine Research Center at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH.

The trials are part of NIH’s Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines, or Activ, program to streamline and coordinate actions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic among agencies in the U.S. government, private pharmaceutical and biotech companies, international agencies, and not-for-profit groups. Among Activ’s goals is to accelerate evaluation of vaccine and therapy candidates to speed regulatory approval, including clinical trials of experimental drugs.

Both the Activ-2 and Activ-3 clinical trials use an adaptive design that allow for changing the course of the study while underway, without compromising gold-standard quality of the efficacy or safety data. Adaptive trials are usually governed by a single governing board and master protocol spelling out ground rules for the study, including standards and processes for assessing results, adding or closing sample groups, and adding new drugs or devices for testing. With these common rules, standards, and practices in place, adaptive trials make it possible to evaluate drugs and devices quicker, add new population groups to a study, or close treatment interventions if needed, even as data are being collected.

First treatment assessed: LY-CoV555

LY-CoV555 is a product of Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis and AbCellera Biologics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. AbCellera uses what it calls deep mining of B-cells from the immune system to discover antibodies for preventing and treating diseases caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. B-cells are white blood cells in the immune system that produce antibodies, proteins that directly attack invading pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in March, AbCellera says it screened more than five million immune-system cells against a blood sample from one of the first people in the U.S. infected with novel coronavirus. From this screening, AbCellera says it identified some 500 unique human antibody sequences that respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19 infections. From this screening and help from Vaccine Research Center at NIAID, the companies developed LY-CoV555, an engineered immunoglobulin G antibody designed to block the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that penetrates and infects cells.

Eli Lilly and AbCellera share LY-CoV555’s development work, while Lilly is responsible for further development, regulatory approvals, manufacturing, and distribution. Earlier this week, the companies said they’re testing LY-CoV555 among residents and staff in long-term care facilities in the U.S.

Activ-2 and -3 clinical trials

The Activ-2 trial is testing treatments for people infected with SAR-CoV-2 viruses responsible for Covid-19, but not requiring hospitalization. The study is initially enrolling 220 participants, randomly assigned to receive an LY-CoV555 infusion or a placebo. Participants will then be tracked for the next four weeks, checking for adverse reactions to the treatment, and tested for SAR-CoV-2 in nasal and saliva samples, blood oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter, and antibody concentrations in blood samples. The main efficacy measures are prevention of hospitalization and survival time of participants.

If results from the first 220 participants look promising, the Activ-2 trial will add a larger-scale sample of 1,780 participants, also individuals with Covid-19 infections, but not needing hospitalization. These participants will also be randomly assigned to receive LY-CoV555 or a placebo, and be assessed for 28 days with similar samples and measures as the smaller group.

The Activ-3 trial is testing LY-CoV555 among patients hospitalized with Covid-19 infections. Like the Activ-2 trial, Activ-3 is first recruiting a sample of 300 participants with Covid-19 and displaying no more than moderate symptoms, randomly assigned to receive LY-CoV555 infusions or a placebo. All patients in the trial are also receiving the antiviral drug remdesivir, approved by FDA as a treatment for advanced Covid-19 infections. After five days, patients are assessed for adverse reactions to the treatment and severity of their symptoms, including the need for supplemental oxygen, use of a ventilator, or other supportive care.

If results from this first group show LY-CoV555 is safe and effective, Activ-3 will add 700 more participants to the sample, although the new patients will include more severe cases, including those needing mechanical ventilation and with organ failure other than the lungs. The main efficacy measure is sustained recovery of patients for 14 days following release from the hospital.

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UCLA, Apple Partner on Depression Study

Apple Watch

(FancyCrave1, Pixabay)

4 Aug. 2020. Researchers from University of California in Los Angeles and Apple Corp. are beginning a study of wearable and home technologies to detect depression. The project aims to make better use of technology in uncovering depression, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic when in-person diagnostics and observations are difficult to achieve.

Depression is a widespread condition, which when it becomes persistent or severe, is called major depression, and can interfere with normal family and work life, and lead to disability. National Institute of Mental Health estimates in 2017, 17.3 million adults in the U.S., or 7.1 percent of the adult population, suffered a major depressive episode in the previous 12 months. UCLA cites data showing depression contributes nearly one million suicides a year worldwide.

The three-year study aims to gather data on basic health indicators such as sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and daily routines to reveal associations between these measures and depression and anxiety. Participants in the study will use or wear Apple technology to collect data on these indictors: iPhone, Apple Watch, and Beddit sleep monitor. The Beddit monitor is a thin, flexible sensor panel placed on the mattress, which sends data on sleep time, heart rate, breathing, snoring, and bedroom temperature and humidity to an accompanying iPhone app.

Participants in the study will receive an Apple Watch and Beddit Sleep Monitor, and download a special iPhone app that collects data for the study. Participants will also complete questionnaires and periodic clinical interviews. The university says individuals will share data from the devices under strict privacy and security conditions that removes identifying and contact information.

A UCLA team is led by neuroscientist, geneticist, and psychiatrist Nelson Freimer, also director of UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenges project. Depression Grand Challenges is a campus-wide initiative that brings together researchers across conventional disciplines to better understand the disease, including environmental and genetic factors, and reduce the stigma associated with depression. The collaboration with Apple is part of that initiative.

“This collaboration, which harnesses UCLA’s deep research expertise and Apple’s innovative technology,” says Freimer in a university statement, “has the potential to transform behavioral health research and clinical care. Current approaches to treating depression rely almost entirely on the subjective recollections of depression sufferers. This is an important step for obtaining objective and precise measurements that guide both diagnosis and treatment.”

The researchers will first conduct a pilot study with 150 participants, recruited from patients at UCLA Health, the university’s medical center and health system. The project then plans to expand to 3,000 participants from UCLA Health and student body.

Freimer notes that the Covid-19 pandemic increases the need for technologies that enable people to engage remotely in their health, including mental health. “The pandemic has heightened anxiety and depression globally, and has increased awareness of the importance of behavioral health to overall well-being,” says Freimer.

“At the same time,” he adds, “physical distancing requirements have limited in-person mental health assessment and treatment, leading to expanded use and acceptance of telehealth. These changes highlight the importance of incorporating technologies like those to be tested in this study into clinical research and eventually into practice.”

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New Allergy Biotech Launches, Raises $10M

Peanutes in shells


4 Aug. 2020. A new company developing treatments to relieve allergic reactions with reprogrammed antibodies began work and is raising $10 million in its first venture funding round. IgGenix Inc, in South San Francisco, California is adapting research at Stanford University on immunoglobulin E, or IgE, antibodies and their role in triggering an allergic cascade.

Stanford University biomedical engineering professor Stephen Quake, a scientific founder of IgGenix, studies measurement of biological processes down to the level of individual cells, including workings of cells in the immune system. In December 2018, Quake and colleagues reported in the journal Science on B cells in the immune system, cells that produce antibodies, in this case IgE, a less common antibody. IgE antibodies are produced by B cells when the body is infected with certain parasitic worms, but also in some people when reacting to an allergic substance.

When IgEs bind to another type of immune cell, called mast cells, this immune response can start a series of symptoms called an allergic cascade ranging from simple itching to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. In their paper, Quake with Stanford colleagues co-authors Derek Croote and Kari Nadeau isolated and analyzed IgE-producing B cells in six people with peanut allergies. From their analysis, the team produced synthetic antibodies that in the lab suppress IgE antibodies generated by peanut allergens.

Quake, with Croote, Nadeau, and veteran life science entrepreneur Bruce Hironaka founded IgGenix last year to bring these discoveries to market. IgGenix is developing engineered immunoglobulin G or IgG antibodies, the most common antibodies in humans, reprogrammed from IgEs. Most treatments for peanut and other food allergies today aim to desensitize people with allergies and build a greater tolerance for the offending food substance. On the other hand, the company believes its engineered antibodies address underlying causes of allergic reactions, by blocking the process producing an allergic cascade, thus acting as a therapy or a preventative drug.

“In individuals with allergies, specialized B cells produce IgE antibodies that recognize a specific allergen,” says Croote, now IgGenix’s chief technical officer in a company statement. “We know that these IgE antibodies, when bound to mast cells, initiate what can be a life-threatening cascade following even minimal exposure to an allergen. By intervening in the allergic cascade, we believe we have the potential to truly make a difference for patients suffering from severe allergic disease.”

IgGenix is raising $10 million in its first venture financing round, led by technology industry investor Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park, California, with Parker Ventures joining the round. Hironaka is the company’s CEO, with Quake and Nadeau serving as scientific advisers, and Quake joining the company’s board.

“To date,” notes Hironaka, “while the awareness of severe food allergies is increasing, there remains a critical need for therapeutics that effectively block and even prevent life-threatening allergic reactions. We believe that through our novel antibody selection and engineering approach, we have the potential to improve the lives of millions of allergy sufferers.”

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Four Ways Businesses Are Surviving Covid-19

– Contributed content –

Shopper in mask

(Anna Shvets, Pexels)

4 Aug. 2020. It’s undeniable – Covid-19 is hurting businesses. Unfortunately, the companies that are hit the hardest are the small and local organizations. With less money and fewer resources, it’s a struggle to limit the damage and stem the bleeding.

However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have a backup plan. Like every business, you can use the competition, big or small, as the blueprint for your success. As long as you tweak the foundations to match your company’s requirements, you should survive and thrive.

Here are the examples that you can copy that are helping enterprises through this difficult period.

Prioritize health

Putting the health and safety of your staff and customers first is the key. As a boss, it’s essential that your brand never puts profits over people’s safety. If it does, it’ll gain a reputation (and rightly so) as a business that only cares about making money. L’Oreal proves how even massive brands that own a huge chunk of the market can enhance their image in crises. The beauty company has launched a social and environmental fund to support the impact of the coronavirus pandemic worth €150m.

You won’t have the same money to donate, but every little helps when people are struggling to make ends meet.

Negotiate leases

McDonald’s, the biggest brand in the fast-food industry, and one of the largest businesses in the entire world stopped paying rent in some countries around the world. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s a sign that you can decide to renegotiate the terms of your lease. It doesn’t matter whether you run a cell tower or a brick-and-mortar store – you have leverage. Not only can you ask for help from a cell tower attorney or a traditional business lawyer, but you can highlight that you can’t pay the usual rates.

Considering landlords prefer to receive some cash, especially when money is tight on their end, you’ll get some leeway.

Manage your cash flow

Your company is your life. Without it, you don’t have the vehicle for success that pays the rent and keeps the roof over your head. Although your current resources don’t go far, you’ve got to showcase that you’re doing all you can manage your cash flow responsibly. Banks, for example, tried to pay dividends in the UK until public uproar made them reverse the decision. Speaking of the UK, just compare the image of their Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Trump administration.

It’s a no-contest because Mr Sunak has spent savvily where necessary and saved the rest.

Switch up

If in doubt, you shouldn’t be afraid to swap your business plan for something new that will guide you through the tough times. Boober Eats is now a takeout service that delivers food to its customers. Previously, it was a strip club, and food probably didn’t account for 10% of the business’s profits. Still, the organization did something different and received national and international coverage as a result.

Would you tweak your strategy? Would you do whatever it takes to keep the doors open?

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Trial Set for Covid-19 Antibodies in Long-Term Care

Mobile lab team

Mobile lab team with its converted RV-research unit (Eli Lilly and Co.)

3 Aug. 2020. Two companies and NIH are beginning a clinical trial of synthetic antibodies to both treat and prevent Covid-19 infections among people in long-term care. A team from Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis and AbCellera Biologics Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or NIAID, part of National Institutes of Health, plan to use mobile research units to conduct the trial on site at skilled nursing and assisted-living homes.

The trial aims to test Eli Lilly’s and AbCellera’s experimental synthetic antibody code-named LY-CoV555 in a population particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 40,273 deaths from Covid-19 occurred at nursing homes in the U.S. as of 19 July, about 30 percent of the nearly 133,000 deaths tabulated by Covid Tracking Project by that date.

AbCellera uses what it calls deep mining of B-cells from the immune system to discover antibodies for preventing and treating diseases caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. B-cells are white blood cells in the immune system that produce antibodies, proteins that directly attack invading pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites. The company’s antibody discovery process combines a number of technologies, beginning with single-cell screening with microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip devices. AbCellera also uses advanced bioinformatics for further analysis and high-throughput characterization to express hundreds of even rare antibodies.

In March, Lilly and AbCellera agreed to co-develop synthetic antibodies that neutralize the proteins on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spike that enter cells and begin the infection process. For the collaboration, AbCellera adapted its discovery process from a project begun in 2018 for U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to devise a rapid system for countermeasures against medical emergencies, including pandemics. AbCellera says it so far screened nearly 62 million patient samples that yielded some 2,000 unique antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

“Six months ago, the world knew very little about this virus,” says Ester Falconer, who heads R&D at AbCellera in a company statement. “The data we are continually generating will be absolutely critical to bringing solutions to the pandemic.”

As reported by Science & Enterprise in June, the two companies and Vaccine Research Center at NIAID, tested LY-CoV555 among hospitalized Covid-19 patients in an early-stage clinical trial, and since then began a mid-stage trial testing LY-CoV555 against a placebo with 400 Covid-19 patients having mild to moderate symptoms. The new late-stage trial is enrolling 2,400 participants among residents and staff at late-term care facilities, evaluating LY-CoV555 as a treatment for Covid-19 infections, but also a preventive drug. The study team aims to test participants for infections four weeks after a single dose of LY-CoV555, then four weeks later for symptoms and complications.

To reduce burdens on participating long-term care facilities, Lilly is turning recreational vehicles into mobile research labs. The custom-modified mobile units will serve as infusion clinics for clinical trial participants, as well as self-contained materials storage and preparation labs. The company says it plans deploy a fleet of these mobile labs for the trial.

“While it’s not easy to conduct clinical trials in this setting,” says Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientist in a company statement, “we’re taking on the challenge in an effort to help those who need us the most.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Covid-19 Vaccines, Therapies – 3 August 2020

Vaccine and therapy tracker

BioRender Covid-19 vaccine and therapy tracker. (

3 Aug. 2020. A continuing feature on Science & Enterprise is a weekly statistical report of vaccines and therapies for Covid-19 offered by BioRender, a scientific illustration software company. BioRender, in Toronto, Ontario, develops graphics tools for life sciences, biotechnology, and other disciplines.

Over the past week, seven more therapy candidates entered clinical trials bringing that number to 259, while the number of therapies in development remained the same at 337. And as reported last week, the numbers of vaccine candidates in development and clinical trials show modest but steady growth, now up to 157 and 35 respectively.

In addition to the summary dashboard shown above, the BioRender Covid-19 vaccine and therapy page provides details of the vaccines and therapies, as well as an activity feed showing news updates on these drugs.

A front-page story this morning in the New York Times tells about political pressures on U.S. health agencies to take short cuts to approve a Covid-19 vaccine before the 2020 election in November. These short cuts include bypassing FDA’s advisory committees that review evidence and recommend actions by the agency, an almost unprecedented step for a drug of this magnitude. The implications are immense, including for trust in other vaccines and therapies needing FDA approval.

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Infographic – An Ounce of Pandemic Prevention

Chart: Cost of pandemic prevention

Click on image for full-size view. (Statista)

1 Aug. 2020. A recent article in the journal Science estimates the public investments needed to prevent the next damaging pandemic, against the costs imposed on the world from Covid-19. The results are rather startling, as shown in this weekend’s infographic, compliments of a chart posted this week by the business research company Statista.

The team of economists, medical researchers, and ecologists takes a life-cycle perspective in estimating the costs of preventing the next pandemic, starting with controlling the source of zoonotic viruses that jump from animals to humans. The authors highlight, for example, costs of reforestation to strengthen the natural habitat for tropical animals threatened by the spread of cities that bring more people in contact with these species. Other steps include ending wild animal markets and meat consumption.

The researchers calculate some $260 billion are needed over the next 10 years to prevent a future pandemic. While that’s a sizable price tag, it’s only two percent of the $11.5 trillion in economic damage from the current pandemic, a mid-point estimate in the range of $8.1 to $15.8 trillion. As the saying goes, you can pay now or pay later.

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Take care of your liver !!! … Stay healthy

– Sponsored content –

Liver illustration

(Mikael Häggström, Wikimedia Commons)

31 July 2020. As we all know liver is an important part of our digestive system and helps in cleaning out the toxin of our body making the blood clean and pure. The other function of the liver is to produce bile in the body to enable us to digest food, processing medicines, and helping us to digest fat. The main function of the liver is to store glucose and produce proteins for clotting blood among all other important functions.

It generates cells up to a point while repeated damage can cause liver inflammation and a few deadly diseases like cirrhosis.

Here in this medical condition the liver gets shrink and harden. It changes the structure of the liver and gradually it ceases to function well. Usually, it has been seen that intake of high doses of alcohol, or more fat intake can cause damage to the liver. Further any viral infection like hepatitis can be a cause of the same.

We, Promethea are a prominent warrior for all liver diseases. We are committed to bring patients life-saving treatments to reduce the need for liver transplantation. Log on to to know more about us.

We are the innovators in the niche. We have experts in cell therapy research to treat your liver damage effectively against cirrhotic liver diseases. We are furnished with all advanced technology and excellence.

You will get to know about your liver damage once the damage to the liver is fairly advanced. So take appropriate care of your liver to keep it in a healthy condition.

We suggest you to take the help of a professional medical practitioner if encountered with the following signs of the liver.

Some signs your liver may be struggling are:

  1. Fatigue and tiredness, it can be a common symptom of liver damage.
  2. You may get Nausea because toxins build up in the bloodstream.
  3. The pale stool is another disability of the liver to filtering out toxins.
  4. A sign of Yellow skin or eyes accompanied by itchy sensation.

Understand the significance of the matter and act accordingly, right from today.

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