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Monoclonal antibodies offer promise in the fight against a wide range of diseases, including COVID-19. The length of the discovery process is a barrier to emergency use, however, and poses a commercial risk for pharmaceutical companies. Multidisciplinary innovation could step up the pace, says Verity Jackson.

The current coronavirus pandemic provides an urgent example of the need for faster development of active pharmaceutical products. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in particular have demonstrated considerable value in the last decade: currently six out of the ten best-selling drugs in the world are mAbs — with a combined revenue of over $50 billion p.a. …


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Remote user testing allowed us to substantially accelerate the development of the CoVent™ ventilator. Dan Lock reviews the impact of social distancing on user research and finds that many of our necessary adaptations will continue to have value. Yet, each new study challenges us to come up with new approaches to inform medical device development.

During the CoVent ventilator development, and in many other medical device development projects since, the new imperative for social distancing has forced us to think a bit harder about how to use technology to support remote user studies. …


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To deliver on the promise of greater safety than human drivers, the sensors of autonomous vehicles need to be kept spotlessly clean. Which technology is up to the task, and who will take ownership of what could become a point of competitive advantage in a burgeoning industry, asks Tom Jellicoe.

Much like human drivers, autonomous vehicles rely on optical sensors to understand their environment and identify hazards. To prevent potentially disastrous momentary errors when information from a soiled sensor is misinterpreted by the “AI brain” of the car, these sensors each require their own cleaning system to always remain available.

This is central to delivering on the promise that autonomous vehicles will be safer than human drivers. …


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Autologous cell therapies hold great promise in the treatment of many cancers but are generally produced using processes and equipment for which there are concerns as to whether they are sufficiently reliable to support scale-out to 1000s of systems. Medical device development holds important lessons for achieving the required reliability for cell therapy automation equipment.

Automation is widely viewed as necessary to achieving the affordable scale-out of autologous cell therapies. These therapies, whereby a patient’s cells are extracted, manipulated and expanded outside the body and then reinfused back into the same patient, hold great promise. Approved CAR-T therapies have shown long-term remission in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients for which all other treatments have failed. …


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From Velcro to human flight, biomimicry has inspired the development of products and industries. During the 2020s, microfabrication and other bottom-up approaches will likely lead to many more bio-inspired ideas achieving technical and commercial success, says Fred Hussain.

Millions of years of evolution have created structures and materials with remarkable properties — and long inspired biomimicry. Human flight was inspired by the study of birds, and the tiny hooks on bur fruit prompted the development of Velcro — patented in 1955.

Now, microfabrication techniques alongside more specialised polymer processing, nanofabrication, electronics and materials science can produce smarter structures and solutions to many real-world problems. And going even smaller, approaches from nano and molecular biomimetics to those exploiting self-assembly will further enhance our ability to create structures and surfaces with improved properties. …


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Most companies are already setting themselves specific sustainability targets. The question now is how to meet them. Sam Hair and Michael Sequeira show how business model and technology innovation should work in tandem to achieve improved sustainability success.

Companies now overwhelmingly embrace sustainability as integral to their mission. In one recent survey of major international enterprises, more than 70% reported they were already using or intending to use the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to set specific performance targets, with particular focus on Goal 12 “Responsible Production & Consumption” and Goal 13 “Climate Action” [1].

Yet, even self-imposed environmental sustainability targets can be difficult to meet. Only 45% of the companies reported “a great deal” of success in achieving sustainability goals set for 2020, and 50% were relatively unhappy with the results of their efforts in addressing the most critical sustainability issues in their supply chain. …


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Inspired by the promise of CAR-T cell therapy, new technologies to combat the hostile solid tumour microenvironment are being developed, underpinned by innovations in intracellular delivery, say Megan McCandless and Stuart Lowe.

Why is there so much excitement about cell therapy for solid tumours?

CAR-T cell therapy, involving the delivery of genetic material into T lymphocytes to cause expression of a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), has revolutionised the treatment landscape for patients with haematological cancers. Trials have demonstrated up to 94% complete remission for indications such as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) [1]. …


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Click chemistry has come into its own in a wide range of life science applications and opens up opportunities that lie between chemistry, biology and material science, says Wenshu Xu.

Many chemical reactions have traditionally required much control and persuasion — in the form of a wide range of often extreme temperatures, oxygen-free environment, pure starting materials, and downstream purification — and were therefore ill suited to applications in the realm of biology.

Then, twenty years ago, soon-to-be Nobel laureate Barry Sharpless and co-workers began to promote the idea of designing reactions that would simply ‘click’, that is, proceed efficiently and selectively under mild reaction conditions [1].

Initially, these chemists were mainly thinking of clicking together existing organic molecules to accelerate the discovery of new compounds with useful properties. But since then, our ability to customise and manufacture a wide range of biological entities, from antibodies to cells, has grown immeasurably, and click chemistry has also come into its own in a wide range of life science applications. …


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Developing a medical device in weeks rather than years during the coronavirus pandemic was an extraordinary undertaking. Dan Strange reviews TTP’s “Project Jarre” and draws some lessons as to how — when needs must — faster medical device development is possible.

On 13 March 2020, TTP joined a mid-Friday-afternoon call with the Cabinet Office, where it was outlined that the UK would soon be facing a shortage of 20,000 ventilators for COVID-19 patients. …


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From smiley faces to diagnostic sensors, the possibility of using DNA as a nanofabrication material is gaining increasing attention. Gary Skinner explains “DNA Origami,” its applications and what is holding back its wider adoption into the marketplace.

“DNA Origami” is the idea that by folding the double helix in a pre-programmed manner, 3D nanostructures of almost any arbitrary design can be realised. The ability to precisely manipulate the position of atoms, with almost atomic resolution, and for all of this to occur via self-assembly is very appealing. …

About

TTP — The Technology Partnership

TTP is an independent technology company where scientists and engineers collaborate to invent, design and develop new products and technologies.

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