HudsonAlpha scientists working on technology to diagnose and combat coronavirus

Published: Jan. 31, 2020 at 6:24 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Wuhan coronavirus is a global disease triggering a global response, and researchers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology are pulling their weight.

Sister companies iCubate and iRepertoire (under the HudsonAlpha umbrella) are developing and distributing technology which diagnoses and treats the illness.

iCubate has developed a program that allows human DNA to be tested for dozens of diseases at a time.

DNA is put in a “cassette” then plugged into a large cube-shaped scanner, which feeds results into the computer.

It will allow doctors to more quickly identify what’s wrong with the patient and how to best treat them.

iCubate CEO Carter Wells said the goal is to save lives and be faster about it.

“That [doctor] is able to say this is what we have, and this is the appropriate treatment, rather than just saying we’re going to hit them with the kitchen sink," he said.

His team is in the process of quality control on the products and shipping roughly 20 more units to China.

On the other side of the lab, iRepertoire’s Director of R&D and Operations Amanda Byrne-Steele is working on technology that will help treat diagnosed patients.

The concept of the technology is similar.

DNA from patients who have overcome the illness is put into a cassette and placed in a similar-looking cube scanner.

The scanner then helps identify proteins that were successful in combating the disease. That allows researchers to synthetically replicate the proteins in the lab, and help those who are struggling.

“It doesn’t convey long term immunity for the patient, but it does allow them to basically, gives their immune system a leg up to so they can clear the virus if the immune system is actually struggling to do that step," Byrne-Steele said.

A press release from the companies reads:

“iCubate and iRepertoire are sister companies founded by Dr. Jian Han at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. iCubate has developed a fully automated system for the rapid detection of infectious pathogens. The system is enclosed and can be placed in laboratories and hospitals, particularly at the source of an outbreak such as 2019-nCoV. iRepertoire examines the immune system of patients exposed to pathogens. The immune system is nature’s first doctor, and by mining the immune system of patient’s that have effectively fought the pathogen, iRepertoire’s technology can pinpoint the exact identity of cells that effectively eliminate the pathogen out of millions of possibilities. The proteins that these cells produce serve as a potential therapeutic vaccine, which can be used to treat patients with active disease by delivering pathogen-specific antibodies directly to the patient to in order to help the patient clear the pathogen.”

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