Health/Life Sciences

DoD provides $1.1M to Seattle startup that may assist discover new antibodies towards COVID-19 variants

A-Alpha Bio founders David Younger (left) and Randolph Lopez. (A-Alpha Bio Photo)

Seattle-based A-Alpha Bio will support research into new therapies for COVID-19 variants in a collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The partnership is powered by a $1.1 million sub-contract awarded to the biotech company by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Monoclonal antibody therapies such as sotrovimab are key countermeasures against COVID-19. But not all antibodies work against all variants, and researchers are on the hunt for new therapies. A-Alpha Bio’s technology offers a systematic approach powered by machine learning for the discovery of new antibodies.

A-Alpha Bio’s AlphaSeq platform can detect the interactions of various proteins expressed by yeast and analyze them computationally. The company’s approach can measure millions of protein-protein interactions, such as between antibodies and viral proteins.

In the new project, the researchers will assess interactions between antibodies and panels of coronavirus variants. The data will be used to refine models for predicting which antibody sequences are likely to stick tightly to current variants and ones that may arise in the future. Such high-affinity antibodies have the potential to be powerful therapeutics.

A-Alpha Bio Platform. (A-Alpha Bio Image)

“We look forward to working together to build ML (machine learning) models, powered by AlphaSeq, that accelerate the discovery and optimization of therapies against emerging viral variants,” said David Younger, co-founder and CEO of A-Alpha Bio, in a statement announcing the collaboration.

Younger founded the company in 2017 with CTO Randolph Lopez using technology they helped to develop while graduate researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. Last September, the company announced $20 million in new funding, and in December announced a collaboration with Kymera Therapeutics to develop “molecular glues.”

The A-Alpha Bio team will work with Daniel Faissol, principal investigator for AI-driven development of biologic countermeasures at Lawrence Livermore. The collaboration also has the potential to provide insight into vaccine design.

The announcement builds on multiple programs by Seattle-area researchers to support the development of new COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.

The first Brazilian patient dosed in a trial for HDT Bio’s COVID-19 vaccine. (HDT Bio Photo)

Seattle-based HDT Bio, for instance, leads one effort to develop a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine and in January dosed its first patient in a phase 1 trial in Brazil. HDT Bio’s RNA-based vaccine is designed for ease of manufacture and has moved into phase 2 and 3 trials in India.

In February, Bothell-Wash. based AGC Biologics announced that it would provide key starting material for the manufacture of an Omicron-based COVID-19 vaccine for Pfizer-BioNTech. AGC will supply DNA used as a template for the RNA-based vaccines from its facility in Heidelberg, Germany.

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