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Newcell Biotech’s ‘human lung’ could prove pivotal in fight against COVID-19

North East-based life sciences company, Newcells Biotech, has confirmed its human lung epithelium model as an effective platform for modelling SARS-CoV-2 infection and replication.

The company’s work alongside the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LTSM) Centre for Drugs and Diagnostics will be crucial in helping researchers to understand the biology and pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 and ultimately in developing anti-viral solutions to COVID-19.

The model uses human iPSC technology and is produced from a population of basal airway epithelial cells that self-assemble into a model of the upper airway.

The most recent data has shown that the model can be successfully infected with SARS-CoV-2, via angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) proteins expressed on the cell surface, and allows replication of the virus once inside its cells.

The team at LTSM and Newcells Biotech are excited by this development and are embarking on an extensive qualification of the assay.

Dr Mike Nicholds, CEO of Newcells Biotech said: “We plan to test the sensitivity of our model with proven antivirals such as remdisvir, as well as expanding the assay readouts. When this is completed it will further solidify the utility of our model to help in the search for new anti-virals as well as to understand the pathology of virus infection.”

Becky Jones-Philips, Commercial Translation Manager at LSTM Centre for Drugs and Diagnostics said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Newcells Biotech in advancing developments and solutions for preclinical therapeutic screening in infectious diseases. The partnership aligns with our strategic goal of expanding pre-clinical models of infection and will enable the advancement of platforms for rapid assessment of new drug and vaccine candidates for infectious diseases impacting low- and middle-income countries.”

Newcells Biotech is also keen to collaborate with organisations that are equally invested in the fight against COVID-19.