Diagnostics and viral evolution
The understanding there are microbes smaller than bacteria that can cause disease is quite a new one - approximately 100+ years old. Ever since the acceptance of viruses’ existence, scientists have hotly debated whether they are living organisms at all. Much of the public, understandably, perceives a virus as a fast-spreading, sub-microscopic kind of parasite.
For the past year, the world has been tackling a new virus – the one that causes Covid-19. It is like fighting a war with an enemy you can’t see and have never met before. As with any battle, winning or losing depends on knowing your enemy. Precise, affordable diagnostics is key to the successful control of infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics.
In BATM we believe viruses are complex information transfer systems that can best be understood by harnessing disciplines like bio-molecular computation, algorithmic research and information interpretation alongside the biological sciences.
We followed closely the ‘12cell’ seminar held near Oxford in February 2018.
“Will biologists become computer scientists”
I would highly recommend this article to anyone wanting to understand the place of the human species in evolution and how what we call “life” functions. It is also a very good answer to many of our shareholders intrigued by the connection between our information and cyber scientists and the diagnostic and computational biologists of our Bio-Med division.
Last year (2020) the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to two scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Anne Doudna who developed a tool to edit the genomes of everything: plants, insects, animals, human beings - the crisper (CRISPR-Cas9).
Some might say we are on the stairway to heaven (or hell) now we can edit the code for life itself. Yet, crisper ‘technology’ was not invented by us. It is a tool that has been part of the endless arms race existing between bacteria and viruses for millions if not billions of years.
Bacteria have a natural protein crisper which can rapidly chop viruses’ genetic information (kind of… immune system) and turn it into useless shish kebab.
And what do the viruses do - sit silently? No. Phages - viruses that attack microbes - evolved the anti-crisper (Nobel prize of 2030?). So, who wins the war? The answer is simple: the one with the biggest army.
Ever heard the phrase viral load?
Influenced and fascinated by this amazing research BATM harnessed its well-known Adaltis diagnostic company in the BioMed division and scientists from its Networking & Cyber division to build within 10 years a molecular diagnostic system second to none.
Our ambitious task: To be able to give in the region of 100% accurate diagnostics for any human or animal pathogen - bacterial, fungal or viral - within minutes.
For this we have developed a three-layer system: for personal, for POC (point of care) and for lab. The system with all its layers is designed to reach the market by the end of 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a good testing ground for some of the tools of BATM’s overall system. A good example is our Corvid 4+1 gene molecular test (PCR). This can measure viral load with utmost precision. This test has been used where precision is most needed, for example in NATO combat pilots. It is now an important tool in decisions when and where to impose lockdowns.
Another version of this test is now in a clinical trial for use with saliva. If successful, patients will soon be able to leave a small bottle containing their saliva outside the lab and get results as fast as for a urine test. A personal mucus/saliva test is also at an advanced stage of clinical trials and is expected to be on the market soon.
Our respiratory lab panel, which can differentiate in less than an hour between flu, Covid-19 and several other microbes, has already started shipping to professionals and very soon will start to ship commercially.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
One final thought though. Viruses have a chemical language they use to pass information between themselves. This was importantly demonstrated in 2017 by Professor Rotem Sorek of the Weizmann Institute.
So as the scientific community talks about viruses and how to tackle them just remember the viruses are having their own ‘conversations’.
Is this the reason flu cases are down during the COVID-19 pandemic or it is the result of the masks, as some claim?
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