SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., July 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — GigaGen Inc., a biotechnology company advancing transformative antibody drugs for infectious diseases, transplant rejection and checkpoint resistant cancers, today announced that it will participate in the LifeSci Partners Private Company Virtual Summer Symposium, taking place on August 4-5, 2020.

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Antibodies from blood donated by people who recovered from the illness and hyper-immunoglobulins are becoming treatments of choice for COVID-19, with recombinant polyclonal antibody approaches to follow.

GigaGen, which is backed by Grifols, is a more recent arrival, and its cell-based recombinant polyclonal immunoglobulin production system is at an earlier stage of development. It involves capturing on a microfluidics platform the complete B-cell populations of five to ten people who have recovered COVID-19 and mounted a robust immune response to the virus. The associated antibody-encoding genes are then transferred into a mammalian cell line.

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It’s not just people and animals that can produce antibodies. Scientists now have the technology to build what are essentially molecular copying machines that can theoretically churn out large volumes of the antibodies found in recovered patients. At GigaGen, a San Francisco-based biotech startup founded by Stanford University professor Dr. Everett Meyer, scientists are identifying the right antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients and hoping to use them as a template for synthesizing new ones, in a more consistent and efficient way so a handful of donors could potentially produce enough antibodies to treat millions of patients.

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Recovered COVID-19 patients in New Orleans area donate blood to California biotech firm working on treatment

The race to find a treatment for COVID-19 is in full swing as researchers in labs across the world attempt to unravel the unique properties of this disease, and find ways to neutralize it. To aid in the effort, recovered patients in New Orleans — a national hotspot for infections — are participating in a blood sampling study led by a California biotech firm that hopes to find an FDA-approved treatment for the disease.

Early research has shown promising results from taking plasma from recovered patients (which contains antibodies) and transferring it intravenously into those succumbing to the virus.   But San Francisco based biotech company GigaGen wants to create a lab-made alternative which won’t rely on a steady stream of donors.

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Companies say it is too soon to know how many patients can be treated from one plasma donation, but it is likely no more than a few, at best. Emergent is hoping to avoid potential delays in plasma collection by also producing hyperimmune globulins in horses vaccinated with whole or partial bits of SARS-CoV-2. SAB takes this concept a step further, fully relying on its herd of genetically engineered cattle in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as the source of its experimental hyperimmune therapy for COVID-19, which it expects will be ready for clinical testing this summer.

Others hope to avoid any supply limitations from donors—whether human, equine, or bovine. David Johnson, CEO of GigaGen, calls the hyperimmune approach “old school.” Hyperimmune therapies are one kind of polyclonal antibody therapy, in which many different antibodies targeting a virus are produced by many different B cells. GigaGen specializes in polyclonal antibody therapies that can be manufactured at scale in bioreactors. The start-up will collect blood from about 50 to 100 people that have recovered from COVID-19, find B cells that make antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, and then copy the genes from those B cells into genetically modified cell lines that crank out these virus-targeting antibodies in bioreactors.

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