October 21, 2018

Research Roundup: Metagenomics sequencing, combinations of antibodies that suppress HIV, and a partnership to reduce child deaths from AMR

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Satvir Malhotra

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Major funders are betting that a new online platform for genetic sequencing will help health workers worldwide more easily identify mysterious infections and track disease outbreaks. The platform, IDseq, seeks to make metagenomics sequencing—the analysis of genetic material and the matching of those readouts to databases of known microbes—, which can be expensive and technically demanding, more accessible and affordable, particularly in low-resource settings. Free and based in the cloud, IDseq allows researchers to upload patient data, which is then “crunched” against existing databases, to determine what infection a patient has. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is supporting the platform’s development, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced last week a new training program to support clinicians around the world in using the platform.

In an early stage trial, a combination of two broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs)—proteins that can bind to different strains of HIV and prevent the virus from entering human cells—suppressed blood levels of HIV for months after treatment in some people. Participants received up to three infusions of bNAbs over a six-week period with their viral load monitored every one to two weeks. Though further testing and refinement is required, long-acting bNAbs combinations may eventually become an alternative to daily anti-HIV drugs. Researchers hope to test whether engineering the antibodies to last longer in the blood can improve viral suppression and explore new combinations with additional antibodies or other drugs.

The Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP) and Novartis are joining forces to reduce child deaths from antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by accelerating the development of generic antibiotic treatments for children. The strategic partnership will focus on: 1) enhancing the availability of generic antibiotics and increasing access for children in low- and middle-income countries, 2) developing heat-stable pediatric formulations, and 3) leveraging the knowledge and shared expertise of both partners. The partnership between GARDP and Novartis is a response to the World Health Organization’s call for affordable, improved, and adapted antibiotics for this vulnerable population, for which treatment options are limited.