Life sciences news: COVID-19 shot clinical data, Bill Gates on preventing the next pandemic

The COVID-19 vaccine designed and developed by the University of Washington researchers is studded with a key portion of the COVID-19 viral protein (in red). (UW Institute for Protein Design / Ian Haydon)

The week in life sciences in the Pacific Northwest started with disappointing data for Eliem Therapeutics. Its lead compound failed to show benefit in a clinical trial for diabetic neuropathic pain, sending its stock plummeting.

But the Seattle-based company has some more candidates in the wings. “We continue to be excited about the potential of our pipeline of drug candidates in multiple neuronal excitability disorders,” CEO Bob Azelby said in a statement.

The week ended with a positive phase 3 clinical data for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by University of Washington researchers, poised for distribution in South Korea. Read on for this and other news from the Pacific Northwest.

Eliem Therapeutics shares sink more than 50% after lead program files to show benefit in clinic

Studies on respiratory infections, type 1 diabetes, boosted with $ 17M to Benaroya Research Institute

Investment firm offers to buy Vancouver, BC-based biotech Zymeworks for $ 733M in cash

New members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, from left: Harmit Malik, Fred Hutch; Caroline (Carrie) Harwood, UW; Rachel Klevit, UW; Steven Henikoff, Fred Hutch. (UW and Fred Hutch Photos)

UW COVID-19 vaccine:

  • The results are in a phase 3 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by UW researchers. South Korea-based SK Bioscience, which led the trial, reported that the shot was safe and yielded a stronger antibody response than the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine; T cell responses were similar or higher. The South Korean government intends to purchase 10 million doses, in anticipation of regulatory approval there. The shot is simple to manufacture and stable without deep freezing, situating it for broad distribution. The UW is licensing the tech royalty-free through the pandemic.

Digital health and devices:

  • Digital Square, a group with a Seattle nonprofit PATH, awarded $ 800,000 to 12 projects “to improve health outcomes and help close the health equity gap around the world.” Awardees include the UW Clinical Informatics Group, and funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Amazon Web Services will provide cloud computing credits as part of its $ 40 million program to reduce inequities in healthcare.
  • Kestra Medical Technologies published findings on its wearable defibrillator to reduce sudden cardiac arrests. The device, which won FDA approval last summer, showed a low rate of false alarms in the study, led by UW Medicine physician Jeanne Poole. The Kirkland, Wash. The startup also took home third place in an annual trade group competition for medical devices, in the cardiovascular category.

Studies:

  • Fred Hutch researchers led a study showing that certain gene changes in cells of the esophagus are associated with progression to cancer years later. The changes involve disruption in both chromosomal copies of a classic cancer-associated gene, TP53. The findings could lead to tests to help classify a patient’s risk.
  • A new study of electronic health records assesses which factors may predict severe illness in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Lab tests, vital signs and the need for supplemental oxygen were more important than factors like chronic conditions or body mass index, challenging current thinking. The research was led by the Institute for Systems Biology and included researchers at Swedish Providence and other institutions.
  • A model of COVID-19 transmission in jails assesses the effects of various interventions on incarcerated people and the wider community. “Operating in a business-as-usual way results in substantial, rapid, and ongoing loss of life,” concluded the study. First author is Washington State University epidemiologist Eric Lofgren.

Trends and TED talks:

  • Bill Gates wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal outlining how to prevent the next pandemic, following a recent TED talk on the subject. He suggests building the “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” team, also a subject in his upcoming book.
  • An essay by Seattle biotech researcher Jocelynn Pearl, “A guide to decentralized biotech,” examines trends such as remote work and the growth of startups with operations in more than one location.

Tech Moves:

Real Estate:

  • Biotech-focused developer BioMed Realty bought a 156,000-square-foot building, currently leased by Meta, in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The building is “lab capable,” according to a press release from the developer, which did not provide information about its plans. The acquisition comes on the heels of a 1.65 acre purchase nearby by the company and brings its total office and lab space in the city to 1.4 million square feet.

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