Over the past several decades, infectious disease outbreaks worldwide have revealed significant weakness in how the world fights the spread of devastating diseases.
Fighting Infectious Diseases
Diseases like SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), HIV/AIDS and dengue have proven to be worthy adversaries. Drug-resistant strains of bacteria and dangerous diseases such as tuberculosis are steadily eroding existing treatments. More recently, outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, Chikungunya and yellow fever have caught the world by surprise.
Our scientists and engineers will apply the most advanced technologies available today—and work to invent new tools as well—to support the global fight against infectious diseases. The work will be clustered around four key areas: diagnostic tests, new drugs, vaccines and rapid response.
We will use new advances in genome sequencing technology to develop a universal diagnostic test that could reveal any infectious disease with near certainty. The work will be based on a prototype developed in 2014 that successfully diagnosed a rare form of bacterial encephalitis in a 14-year old boy using sequencing technology to quickly distinguish human DNA from disease DNA.
When an infectious agent invades a human cell, it frequently hijacks specific proteins within that cell and uses them to replicate and cause disease. Scientists will take advantage of new capabilities being developed here to identify the hijacked proteins. We will then use cutting-edge gene editing tools to test whether shutting down the expression of these proteins can block the disease, which could spark the development of new treatments. We’re also seeking new ways to develop drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which are isolated from people who survived the infectious disease.
We believe machine learning technology, now used for things like driverless car and threat assessments, could be particularly effective for probing clinical trial data for insights existing analytical methods fail to find.
And finally, at CZ Biohub, we will form a Rapid Response team that can be activated during a disease outbreak. The team will deploy our advanced genome sequencing technologies to quickly learn how the disease is making people sick, how it’s spreading from one person to another and whether there are existing drugs that could be immediately repurposed for treatment. We’ll also develop and distribute materials that are crucial for screening patients and studying the disease.