Newsletters

Spring 2020 Newsletter

 

COVID-19 Special Edition: Spotlight on the Vermont BioTech Sector

 

From social distancing work policies to innovative technologies, Vermont’s diverse biosciences sector has responded quickly to COVID-19, allowing organizations to contribute to fighting the pandemic or continuing their essential functions.

UVM Innovators

Researchers with UVM’s Larner College of Medicine (LCOM) have responded quickly to COVID-19 with new inventions and testing techniques. Below are a few of these promising projects:

Jason Bates, working out of the Lung Center and the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences Bioengineering department, has developed an inexpensive and simple ventilator for Airway Pressure Release Ventilation that he plans to release on an open source basis. The new ventilator will help respiratory disease crisis management and deliver safer ventilation to patients. This ventilator operates in a way that avoids acute lung injury and minimizes the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a condition characterized by widespread inflammation in the lungs and decreased quality of life for survivors.

David Krag, from the Department of Surgery, is working on a therapy using in vitro activation of immune effector cells for the treatment of infectious diseases like the coronavirus. Instead of giving a large dose of antibodies or antibody plasma to patients, as with previous therapies, his technique uses small samples to activate a patient’s own immune effector cells. These activated immune effector cells are then given back to the patient, allowing precious anti-COVID-19 serum to help more patients.

Jason Botten, from the Department of Medicine, Immunology, and Director of the BSL3 Lab is working on identifying potent antibodies from patient samples at various phases of the disease. His team can then develop antibodies against proteins the virus requires for cell entry. His lab also developed an RT-qPCR COVID-19 testing protocol that does not require the usual RNA extraction step, allowing for faster testing.

Daniel Weiss, working in the Lung Center, co-wrote a review summarizing the uses of lung cell and lung cell factor therapies for COVID-19. He is currently in multiple collaborations to develop these cell- and factor-based therapies.

Vermont Biotech Businesses

Bia Diagnostics is a global, leading food and nutraceutical testing laboratory that specializes in Food Allergen, GMO, Food Authenticity, and Cannabis/Hemp testing. Allergen testing for the food industry is an essential service, ensuring the safety of the food products that consumers receive. In response to COVID-19, Bia has reduced staff in the laboratory to 50%, with 50% of staff working from home, to accommodate as much physical distancing as possible. Their goal is to juggle the safety of their employees while keeping up with the rapid pace of allergen testing, so manufacturers can continue to ship quality food on time.

Prospect Environmental Services (PES), solely owned by civil/environmental engineer Tom Joslin, is a young environmental research and consulting business focused on the fields of wastewater treatment, biofuels development, and advanced surface cleaning. PES operates an independent environmental applied research lab in Jericho, as well as conducting research and maintenance activities at field sites. Joslin has spent the past three years on building improvements, and accumulating lab equipment, and is ready to collect and work with wastewater samples. Due to COVID-19, he has put off approaching municipalities because the virus has been found in wastewater. Joslin has donated a few face masks from his inventory of PPE to neighbors and friends.

 

Industry News

Bellows Falls Company Seeks to Meet Need for Covid-19 Testing Components

Starting in February, Chroma Technology has seen a huge increase in demand for their optical filters from biotechnology companies working on COVID-19 testing. They are actively seeking new staff in order to increase their output, a process complicated by the company’s concerns about exposing existing employees to new people. Their hiring compromise has been to invite current employees to recommend family members, who they interact with anyway, to become temporary entry-level workers.

Bellows Falls Company and COVID-19 Testing

 

 

Education News

Spring Semester 2020: When Reality is Virtual

Even in the face of shelter-in-place orders UVM remains committed to delivering world-class instruction. Their IT professionals have moved fast to get instructors and students the technology resources they need, from physically providing laptops for low income students to digitizing instructional materials. The huge increase in remote access to previously tangible on-campus resources may continue to have value even after students return to campus.

When Reality is Virtual

 

Connect

joinus sm

Call for Seminars

The VBSA is always interested in hosting new workshops and seminars! You can suggest seminar ideas to Rachel Marie Sargent at vermontbiotech@gmail.com.

Membership

If you are interested in bioscience entrepreneurship in Vermont, join the VBSA! Expand your professional network and keep current on news and opportunities in bioscience right here in Vermont. Joining the VBSA sends a message of support for Vermont bioscience companies and organizations. Click here for more on the benefits of joining the VBSA and to sign up.

News

If your business has announcements, milestones, or projects they would like to share with the VBSA community, please get in touch with us! You can email your news and information to Rachel Marie Sargent at vermontbiotech@gmail.com.