We are pleased to share news that eight members of the WMS community have secured Fellowships with the University's Institute of Engagement.
On the UN's International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the University spoke to some our researchers and asked them about their hopes for their research and the importance of equality in their chosen field.
CryoLogyx spin out from GibsonGroup
A new spin out company has been awarded funding from innovateUK to develop new frozen cell products. The company will use technology developed in the Gibsongroup which uses synthetic polymers to protect cells (and other biologics) during freezing, and to make them easier to transport and deliver. The company is being led by a postdoc in the group, Dr Tom Congdon.
Read the press release here
Read about the group’s research here
Using unnatural sugars to target galectins
The GibsonGroup, as part of a large BBSRC/Innovate funded collaboration have published their latest results into using nanomaterials to probe glycan-binding events. In this collaborative work, a combined chemical and enzymatic synthetic route was exploited to generate glycans which could be attached to nanoparticles for glycan/lectin screening - a platform technology developed by the GibsonGroup. Using this approach, it was shown that selective addition of fluorine atoms allow selective binding of galectins which is not possible using natural disaccharides, and may offer a route for targeting therapies and diagnostics. https://doi.org/10.1039/D0SC05360K
Modelling of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection frequency
One of the key questions in predicting the course of the COVID-19 pandemic is how well and for how long the immune response to the virus protects people from reinfection. The Robb group modelled early SARS-CoV-2 infection and fatality data from different regions around the world to predict how many reinfection cases would be expected if there was no immunity to the disease. Numerous serological studies now support the conclusion that short-term immunity to the virus exists. doi:10.2196/21168
The College of Pathologists' annual International Pathology Day Conference recognises and celebrates the contribution and achievements of pathology and laboratory medicine services that work to address global health challenges and improve the health outcomes of global communities.
New diagnostic test detects and identifies SARS-CoV-2 virus in less than five minutes
Scientists, led by Dr Nicole Robb, have developed an extremely rapid diagnostic test that detects and identifies viruses in less than five minutes. The test uses artificial intelligence to distinguish between microscope images of fluorescent viruses in throat swab samples. Unlike other technologies that detect a delayed antibody response or that require time-consuming sample preparation such as viral lysis or amplification, the new test quickly detects intact virus particles; meaning the assay is simple, fast and has the potential to be carried out in non-laboratory conditions. Read about the research here
Modulating Immune Cells using GlycoMaterials
The GibsonGroup have collaborated with immunologists at Nottingham to develop immune-instructive materials. Using the GibsonGroups technology for immobilising glycans (sugars) onto surfaces, they were able to screen for specific mixtures of glycans which modulated the behaviour of dendritic cells - key components of our immune system. This work shows that the incorporation of synthetic glycomaterials could be useful for the development of advanced implantable materials or in regenerative medicine. Read about the research here
Cryopreserving proteins with polymers
Proteins are used as medicines, catalysts and many other application areas, but require careful storage conditions. Cryopreservation (freezing) is a widely used method to bank proteins but it is often necessary to add solvents (or other excipients) to protect them. The GibsonGroup have published an investigation into using polymers which control ice crystal growth, to protect proteins during freezing, which are now being investigated to help store and transport protein therapies. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2020.110036
Warwick Medical School spinout - NanoSyrinx
NanoSyrinx is the first company to engineer ‘nanosyringes’, a selective non-viral peptide and protein delivery system identified in an undisclosed organism. The company will focus on direct cytosolic delivery of genome editing enzymes and therapeutic proteins in vivo, with key applications in the cell and gene therapy space.
CEO Dr Joe Healey, who joined from the Waterfield Lab to lead the company, said, “We believe that our nanosyringe platform will unlock new approaches for the treatment of many intractable diseases and will be of value to a wide range of potential partners and customers. The company is delighted with the early progress made in both in vivo active pharmaceutical delivery and ex vivo cell engineering applications.”
Dr Nick Waterfield commented, “We are pleased with the traction the company has made, with both academics and industry leaders across a range of applications. In particular, our academic collaborations have provided excellent opportunities for us to build out a synthetic biology platform and validate compatibility with a range of payloads, including pro-apoptotic peptides, reporter proteins, and larger functional proteins (such as DNA modifying enzymes and toxins). We will also be exploring a diverse range of other payloads. The team would welcome discussions with the right partners as we move to the next phase“.
NanoSyrinx’s initial focus will be on the development of its ex vivo gene editing nanosyringe concept, having already engaged with a number of leaders in the cell therapy field.
Read more here
Rapid low cost SARS-COV-2 diagnostics using glycosylated nanoparticles
Current diagnostic strategies for SARS-COV-2 rely on centralised infrastructure using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) methods. The GibsonGroup have discovered that the SARS-COV-2 spike protein binds a sialic acids (a type of glycan other respiratory viruses also target) and show this can be used to detect it. The glycan is installed onto gold nanoparticles, which are then used in a hijacked ‘pregnancy test’ allowing quick detection without any infrastructure. This publication proves the principle including detection of a model virus system. https://doi.org/10.1021/acscentsci.0c00855
Improved method to prepare glycosylated nanoparticles
Glycans (aka sugars) are crucial in infection and cell-cell signalling, but the incorporation of complex glycans into nanomaterials is not always easy. The GibsonGroup have developed a method to enable direct capture of glycans onto nanoparticles, removing complex chemical-synthesis steps which will enable the rapid investigation of their use in diagnostics, in particular. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.0c00465
Replacing solvents with polymers to cryopreserve stem cells
The GibsonGroup report the use of their (patent pending) macromolecular cryoprotectants for the cryopreservation of stem (stromal) cells. With this technology the amount of DMSO was reduced required for cryopreservation was reduced from 10 wt % to just 2.5 wt %. These findings are important for regenerative medicine applications where high-quality frozen cells are crucial, and the reduced DMSO may reduce toxicity and improve stem cell manufacturing processes.
Re-engineering Cellular Interfaces with Synthetic Macromolecules using Metabolic Glycan Labelling
In this viewpoint article, to celebrate 100 years of polymer science, the GibsonGroup have reviewed the emerging field of engineering cell surfaces with polymers. Protein-polymer conjugates are now clinically used, but cell-polymer conjugates are still emerging. This article reviews how chemists can exploit glycan (sugar) metabolic processing to introduce ‘handles’ to cell surfaces to allow attachment of polymers, or nanomaterials, and the many potential applications this technology may have. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsmacrolett.0c00317
Evaluating the efficiency of new macromolecular cryoprotectants for cells
Frozen cells are crucial in all biomedical research, as well as to deliver cell based therapies (e.g. CAR-T cells) to patients.The GibsonGroup have published a study showing how to avoid false positives when testing innovative polymer-based cryoprotectants, which is crucial to help their translation from the lab to clinic. The work was led by recently appointed Wellcome-Trust translational fellow Dr Kathryn Murray. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.biomac.0c00591
WMS and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust are investigating whether a new dual testing method can improve the diagnostic accuracy for patients with suspected significant bowel disease (SBD) - without the need for a colonoscopy.
Surveying the building blocks of childhood: new Centre for Early Life to be launched at University of Warwick
The first building blocks of our lives are to be explored by a new research centre at the University of Warwick, starting from before we are even conceived right up to the age of five years old.
Researchers from WMS and the School of Engineering have developed a new technique that can spot a potential preterm birth in asymptomatic high-risk woman, with up to 73% accuracy months before delivery.
A new diagnostic tool for rapid detection of Coronavirus is being developed by Warwick researchers, led by the Gibson Lab. Learn more about the tool, its development and how it could help in the battle against the virus.
Survey by WMS researchers shows most women’s healthcare units have adopted national guidance on COVID-19 but there are concerns that without greater planning there could be problems that may adversely affect women’s health in the future.
WMS researchers have developed a way to create more crucial reagents for use in COVID-19 tests that could also provide enhancements to the use of, and production of, future tests.
X-ray Diffraction to Probe the Kinetics of Ice Recrystallization Inhibition
The Gibson Group are developing mimetics of anitfreeze proteins for various biomedical applications. In this work, they explore the use of X-ray scattering as a tool to help discover new materials and understand existing antifreeze proteins. Traditional tests of antifreeze function use microscopy and end-point assays, or require extensive image analysis of a relatively small number of crystals. Here, low-temperature x-ray scattering was used (with superb assistance from the X-Ray RTP at Warwick) to enable real-time profiling of ice growth rates, probing 100’s of crystals simultaneously. This work will help develop new more active antifreeze protein mimetics for biomedical and biotechnological applications. https://doi.org/10.1039/C9AN02141H
Ice Recrystallisation Inhibiting Polymer Nano-Objects via Saline-Tolerant Polymerisation-Induced Self-Assembly
The Gibson Group have developed new nanoparticles capable of inhibiting ice growth, to mimic antifreeze proteins. Antifreeze proteins often show size-dependant activity - larger proteins are more active than small. In this work, the Gibsongroup used the tool of polymerization induced self assembly, PISA. PISA is a powerful, but typically cannot be conducted in saline, which can limit its application, especially for ice growth assays which require saline. The team developed an easy method to enable saline-stable PISA and exploited this to generate nanoparticles which were potent ice growth inhibitors, and were more active than the starting polymers. https://doi.org/10.1039/D0MH00354A
Polymer-Stabilized Sialylated Nanoparticles: Synthesis, Optimization, and Differential Binding to Influenza Hemagglutinins
The Gibson Group has explored the use of gold nanoparticles as a tool to probe how influenza targets our cells. Influenza engages cells in our respiratory tracts by binding to glycans (sugars) and the pattern of sugars they bind is a key part of zoonosis - species hopping, for example avian to human influenza. The GibsonGroup used their polymer-stabilised nanoparticle technology to capture glycans onto the nanoparticles and probed how they interact with a components from a panel of influenza strains. This revealed key differences in the binding pattern compared to just using the glycans alone.