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01 April 2020 by Sophie Lutter

COVID19 update

A focus on flexibility: our secret weapon against Covid-19

Over the next few weeks, we’ll all be coming to terms with ‘the new normal’ in the face of an unprecedented global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As individuals, families, colleagues and businesses, we’re also having to adjust to the realisation that all the plans, forecasts and strategies in the world can’t save us from uncertainty. Instead, we’re drawing on those other essential human survival skills: flexibility and adaptability.

For our scientists, this means a big change to work patterns. Shift work in the labs is minimising contact while ensuring that business critical projects keep running. For our business development team, it means no more travelling for face to face meetings or conferences. Instead, video calls and emails are the order of the day. And for all of us, it means a far greater insight into our colleagues’ home lives, as we navigate the challenges of working from home while contending with housemates, partners, children, dogs, renovation projects, too much of our own company, and/or a serious case of cabin fever.

However, the flipside for a business like OXGENE is the real privilege of being able to adapt our business plan to actively support and progress global efforts against Covid-19.

We’re doing this in several ways (some of which we can’t yet talk about). But some of the things we can mention are below.

First up, we’re capitalising on the flexibility of one of our technology platforms to take a novel approach towards developing our own vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 proteins, in case other vaccine strategies prove unsuccessful.

Next, our antibody discovery team are using our novel mammalian display system to discover neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein; the part of the virus that binds to the membrane of the host cells they’re about to infect. Neutralising antibodies inhibit viral function and stop it having any biological effect. In this case, neutralising antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein would stop the virus infecting the host cell and causing disease (Covid-19). Neutralising antibodies therefore have huge therapeutic and preventative potential.

We're planning other ways to support the NHS and the global research community to fight SARS-CoV-2 too, so keep an eye on our news feed over the next weeks and months for updates.

There’s no doubt that the next few weeks will be clouded by uncertainty, but we’re proud of the flexibility and resilience all our staff have shown in the face of highly unusual and difficult circumstances, and we’re proud to be part of an industry that’s banding together to accelerate progress against Covid-19.