Santa Barbara biotech company working on techologies
Bio SB Inc. is developing technologies that can detect COVID-19 in tissue biopsies and assess the pathological effects.
Before the pandemic, the Santa Barbara biotech company focused on developing and manufacturing technologies for cancer diagnostics and medicine for cancer treatments.
After Bio SB Inc.’s business declined in mid-March due to the pandemic, it decided to devote its resources to learning more about the coronavirus, Dr. Alfonso Heras, the CEO, told the News-Press.
The company’s study involves proteins that are called cytokines and SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. SARS CoV-2 stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.”
“Given our expertise in cancer diagnostics, we have developed technologies to detect SARS CoV-2 in tissue biopsies, and now we are interested to research and better understand the Cytokine Storm Syndrome, which is induced by the COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Heras said.
The CEO said learning how to correctly diagnose and treat Cytokine Storm Syndrome is important because it is the primary reason COVID-19 can become fatal.
“We are interested in identifying the role of SARS CoV-2 and how it induces a massive and uncontrolled immune response caused by pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine dysregulation that leads to death,” he said.
“We believe this research will lead to learning how to prevent the deterioration of patients with COVID-19 infection and eventually saving patient lives,” Dr. Heras explained.
According to Bio SB’s studies, “the vast majority of patients with COVID-19 have had a good prognosis, but there are still some critical individuals and even death. Most of these critically ill and dead patients do not develop severe clinical manifestations in the early stages of the disease. Some patients only show mild fever, cough or muscle soreness.
“These conditions suddenly deteriorate in the later stages of the disease or in the recovery process. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multiple-organ failure occur rapidly, resulting in death within a short time. Cytokine storm is considered to be one of the major causes of ARDS and multiple organ failure.”
Dr. Heras said Cytokine Storm Syndrome occurs when the body incorrectly responds to an infection.
During a normal response, the immune system releases dozens of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are used to attract various immune cells to the infection site to start attacking the pathogen.
However, during an abnormal immunological response, the cytokines released become unregulated, and the excess cytokines make blood vessels hyperpermeable. That leads to thromboembolic events. (Thromboembolism refers to the formation of clots in the blood vessel.)
The result is the inflammation of the endothelium, the thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels.
The study also states, “Current literature indicates that SARS CoV-2 triggers CSS and has been attributed to the severe symptoms’ characteristic of critical patients. CSS in these patients is often fatal, which is also the case in cases seen in SARS and MERS outbreaks.”
In addition to researching Cytokine Storm Syndrome, Bio SB is also looking into how the virus infects cells in humans by using various cell receptors.
So far, Bio SB has developed the techniques to test which specific cell receptors the virus uses to infect patients.
The company is now looking for clinical institutions to collaborate with for further testing.
“The idea is to collaborate with clinical institutions treating COVID-19 patients, where they provide clinical specimens and we provide the technology to research the Cytokine Storm Syndrome,” Dr. Heras said.
“Then we both collaborate reading the results and eventually publish the results.”
Dr. Heras said the published results will provide hospitals and drug companies more insight into how the virus infects cells in humans and how it triggers the Cytokine Storm Syndrome. By providing more insight into how the virus operates, the hope is that it will help other researchers in their pursuit of developing a cure.