Twist Bioscience, Eleven Therapeutics create replicon for antiviral development

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

February 8, 2022 -- Twist Bioscience and Eleven Therapeutics have created a replicon tool that could be used for studying viral genome replication and antiviral drug screening as well as vaccine and therapeutic development.

Replicons are synthetic viral RNA molecules that mimic viruses in their ability to replicate; however, they have been engineered to remove the portion of the genome that causes infectiousness. Replicon systems have been successfully used to mimic RNA viruses, including Zika, dengue, and SARS-CoV-1, to facilitate safe and rapid development of novel therapeutics.

Through a publication on bioRxiv, the companies demonstrated the development of a safe and efficient SARS-CoV-2 replicon-generating engine, empowered by massively parallel DNA synthesis. By engineering the replicon, the teams retained 97% of the viral genome but completely eliminated any infectivity properties of SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers can use this replicon to study viral activity and the effectiveness of associated vaccines or therapeutics without the need for patient samples or risk involved with handling live virus. The technology also allows for more rapid prototyping and testing of novel therapies to verify their therapeutic applicability.

Twist Bioscience has formed an institutional biosafety committee to review and monitor R&D, as well as commercial activities that involve pathogens, biological toxins, or other biohazardous materials.

Twist Bioscience offers synthetic DNA to its customers using its silicon platform. Eleven Therapeutics is a company leading the artificial intelligence revolution in nucleic acid therapies.

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