SpongeBot represents a new class of genetically modified cells to address the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging a novel antiviral platform developed under the proposer team?s existing NIH NIBIB R01 project. This antiviral platform facilitates rapid, targeted SpongeBot development and deployment against SARS-CoV-2, its viral mutations, as well as entirely new viruses - providing a barrier to future viral pandemics. SARS-CoV-2 is highly communicable and individuals can transmit the disease even prior to becoming symptomatic, sharply increasing the rate of disease spread. During the first two weeks following infection, the innate immune system attempts to slow down the rapidly multiplying pathogen to provide time for the adaptive immune system to develop more specific and effective mechanisms to destroy the virus. However, in individuals with decreased or compromised immune responses, the excessive viral load can lead to elevated inflammation, severe tissue damage, and ultimately death. SpongeBot, our bioengineered cell-based therapy solution, provides vital support to the body?s immune system, through its genetically designed ability to sequester and destroy SARS-CoV-2 viral particles at sites of injury, in addition to attenuation of the immune system?s hyperinflammatory response to the virus. Administering SpongeBot cells to an infected individual reduces and keeps viral load below dangerous thresholds, prevents harmful hyperinflammation, and provides the adaptive immune system the time required to mount an effective defense against the virus. SpongeBot can be administered prophylactically to at-risk populations (e.g., healthcare workers, the elderly, or immunocompromised individuals), or therapeutically at any stage during the course of viral infection. Importantly, SpongeBot therapy is extremely safe; the base technology has a long proven clinical safety track record. Unlike the lengthy development times necessary for vaccines or antiviral medications, a targeted SpongeBot therapy against a predicted virus can be placed in clinical trials immediately. SpongeBot development for a novel virus would be ready for deployment in only about 12 weeks.
SpongeBots represent a new class of genetically modified cells engineered to sequester and destroy virus particles, while also suppressing the hyperinflammation implicated in COVID-19 deaths. SpongeBot capabilities are useful both therapeutically in infected individuals, and prophylactically to protect vulnerable populations. Based on technologies developed in the team?s existing NIH NIBIB R01, our new antiviral platform enables rapid, targeted SpongeBot development and deployment against SARS-CoV-2, future mutations, as well as entirely new viruses - providing a barrier to future viral pandemics.