At a meeting on synthetic biology held at MIT, the drug company Novartis said it has synthesized hybrid flu genomes in a process that could shave weeks off the time required to produce vaccines. When new flu strain emerges, government agencies normally send samples to vaccine manufacturers, who grow large numbers of the pathogen in chicken eggs as starting material for vaccines, says Philip Dormitzer, leader of viral vaccine research for Novartis. This process can take months and can miss the peak of an outbreak. But Novartis, working with synthetic biologists, has developed a way of chemically synthesizing virus genomes and growing them in tissue culture cells. That saves time and may produce more effective vaccines.
In 2011, the team tested its method in response to a mock outbreak of a bird-flu virus (one closely related to the H7N9 virus currently spreading in China). Starting at 8 a.m. on Monday that year, the team began to chemically synthesize a viral genome based on sequence data, says Dormitzer. By noon the following Friday, the team had confirmed that it had live virus growing in cell culture.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.