Screening of Vaccine Precursors

Problem – Pandemics and changing virus strains

Epidemics, the rapid spread of infectious diseases to a large number of people within a short period of time and over large regions (pandemics), are major threats for humanity. The Spanish flu, for example, claimed about 50 million lives 100 years ago. Although the more recent influenza pandemics of 1957, 1968, 1977 and 2009 were milder, they nevertheless show the great pandemic potential of viruses. The seasonal flu alone leads to 290,000 to 650,000 deaths worldwide – every year. Other viruses, like the Ebola or the Zika virus, hold the potential to cause devastating pandemics around the world.

Vaccinations are the best prevention against epidemics and pandemics. However, current influenza vaccines are comparatively ineffective: the virus changes its surface frequently and so quickly that current vaccine development methods are simply too slow. By the time the vaccines are ready for distribution – about 6 months after strain identification – the viruses may already have changed significantly.
Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Solution – Vaccines in as little as 2 days

BioCopy, a start-up of the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, is revolutionising vaccine development. Molecular changes of new or mutated pathogens can be identified within 2 days. With this vaccine precursor, an adapted, optimal vaccine can then be provided promptly. This guarantees effective and, above all, fast protection against upcoming pandemics and rapidly changing virus strains.

The BioCopy technology is unique and worldwide protected by 7 patents. The basis of the innovation is a biomolecule copier, which is analogous to the principle of photocopying – only that the pixels consist of DNA or protein.

The genetic material of a pathogen (DNA/RNA) is transferred to a special copy chip. The copy chip carries thousands of small isolated cells (cavities) on its surface into which the DNA molecules are distributed. Each cavity can now be imagined as a DNA pixel. By adding biochemical copy mixes, a copy of each DNA pixel in the form of DNA, RNA or protein is generated.

In the case of vaccine development, the cDNA of a pathogen such as the influenza virus is copied to proteins. Each pixel contains a different protein of the pathogen. The starting point for finding a new vaccine precursor against the pathogen is always the blood of a person that has survived the disease. This blood contains antibodies that protect against the disease. They only bind to the protein pixels that are important for the immune defence. All reacting protein pixels taken together represent the first synthetic vaccine and are isolated. This vaccine can be produced biosynthetically, quickly and on a large scale; cell-based or recombinant. Vaccinated persons themselves produce antibodies against the now harmless proteins of the vaccine and are protected from the actual pathogen in this way. Therefore, our method can generally be used for any pathogen.