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The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded people across the world of how vulnerable they can be to illness. The novel coronavirus has proven difficult to treat and prevent. Plenty of labs are set up to combat the coronavirus. Typically, they follow one of two strategies. Teams at universities around the world are trying to develop a vaccine. Bill Gates has also funded organizations working on that same kind of plan. Other labs are working on ways to defeat, not prevent, the virus with antiviral drugs.

One of the most innovative approaches to developing antiviral drugs has been developed by scientists affiliated with Northwestern and Cornell. They are trying to find fast and effective ways to treat the COVID-19 virus. The researchers at these schools have formed a start-up called SwiftScale Biologics to produce an antibody therapy on a big scale. The team at SwiftScale has found a way to use cell organelles to help reproduce antivirals. This is a very efficient way of reproducing antivirals. The cell organelles used for this process are taken from bacteria.

Bacteria are unlike viruses in that they are cells. They’re complete organisms made up of a single cell. Bacteria make up a big part of the human body. Some make people ill, but much more aid in digestion and other bodily functions. Viruses, by contrast, are not real living cells. Bacteria can survive independently. Viruses require a host. A virus is a form of protein surrounding some RNA or DNA. Cells have structures like mitochondria and ribosomes that carry out vital functions. By using these organelles, scientists are hopeful that they can manufacture antiviral treatments.

The antibody therapy these teams are working on has a great deal of potential. In theory, this antibody would attach itself to the part of the COVID-19 virus that infects cells. This would make it impossible for infection to spread. An independent company first discovered this technique. SwiftScale wants to scale this up. Initially, the team was using cells from mammals for this process. They switched to bacteria because, as simpler cells, the bacteria operate more efficiently. The hope is that this will speed up the process significantly. SARS-CoV antibodies are currently being tested.