PHILADELPHIA—With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting life as we know it, preclinical-stage biotech AUM LifeTech Inc. and genetic research startup AUM BioTech LLC have had enough and are ready to fight the deadly virus facing the world today. The companies have joined hands and resources to kick off Knockdown Coronavirus, a research program aimed at developing a treatment for COVID-19.
Under this initiative, the two companies are offering self-delivering RNA silencing research products, powered by FANA ASO technology, to the global coronavirus research community to facilitate research and fast-track therapeutic development.
AUM LifeTech is currently working with collaborators toward the goal of developing a therapy for COVID-19, while AUM BioTech’s next-generation gene-silencing research tools have the capability to selectively knockdown the virus’ RNA. Further, AUM BioTech’s RNA-targeting technology can be used to perform high-throughput genetic screening to identify the function of viral and host genes, and help identify new targets for COVID-19 therapy development.
“We are very excited to launch this program and serve the global scientific community, which is working tirelessly to find a cure for COVID-19 in these unique and challenging times,” says Veenu Aishwarya, founder and CEO of AUM LifeTech and AUM BioTech. “RNA-targeting technology works by silencing (knocking down) the RNA that plays a crucial role, causing a loss of function, thus inhibiting viral replication and transmission.”
“We are very proud to offer our RNA-silencing platform to better understand the biology of SARS-CoV-2 and its interaction with the host. Our goal is to provide our expertise and resources to facilitate COVID-19 research with a hope to develop a potential antiviral therapy for COVID-19, using our self-delivering FANA ASO technology,” he adds. “Additionally, we are actively seeking new alliances, and invite the scientific community to partner with us to knockdown coronavirus and defeat COVID-19.”
Aishwarya points out that SARS-CoV-2 “is an RNA virus,” which means that “Simply speaking, using our RNA-targeting approach we can shut down critical components of the virus (required for its survival) and inhibit its replication and transmission.”
Without naming any names, Aishwarya tells DDN that, “The response from the scientific community has been good. We are already working with a few organizations and gradually hope to increase our collaborative effort.”
He notes that the list of AUM’s collaborators working on COVID-19 programs is growing. AUM is offering FANA ASO RNA-silencing research reagents to the scientific community across multiple institutes currently working to find a therapy for COVID-19. This includes some current members of COVID-19 International Research Team (COV-IRT), which is co-lead by Afshin Beheshti, a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and Todd Treangen, assistant professor of computer science at Rice University.
COV-IRT is focused on understanding SARS-CoV-2 through analyzing ‘omics data, predicting potential targets and helping develop a therapy. AUM is working with COV-IRT members to help identify and narrow down genetic targets which can be used to develop RNA-targeting therapeutics for COVID-19.
AUM LifeTech is also collaborating with McGill University in Canada on another COVID-19 project using FANA ASO technology.
FANA ASO technology “can be used in two ways,” Aishwarya explains. “One, as a research tool and two, as a potential therapeutic. With our RNA-targeting technology we can identify the critical genes which are needed for the survival of coronavirus. This information can help us to better understand the biology of SARS-CoV-2 and its interaction with the host (i.e. humans or other animals).”
“Once we have identified this information, we can then use the same FANA ASO technology to develop a potential RNA-targeting therapeutic for COVID-19,” he adds. “This approach can save us lot of time and resources.”
At AUM LifeTech, “we are in the very beginning stages of development,” he notes. “Our hope is that with our next-generation RNA-silencing technology, we will be able to significantly shorten this time, but we still have a long way to go and follow a data-driven approach to find a potential therapy for COVID-19.”
As for the end of this pandemic, Aishwarya says, “I am an optimist. It has to be a combined effort from every member of our species. It is nice to see that people are already contributing in the best way they can. It may take some time to completely figure this one out as we prepare for the next one.”