Applied DNA shoots, scores on multiple COVID fronts

Slam dunk: A new deal to provide COVID-19 surveillance testing for Stony Brook University's men's and women's basketball teams is a big score for Applied DNA Clinical Laboratories.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

It’s been a big week for one of Long Island’s boldest biotechs.

Applied DNA Sciences, a Stony Brook-based leader in polymerase chain reaction-based DNA manufacturing, has earned New York State approvals for the veterinary trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed in conjunction with Italian startup EvviVax, a spinoff of frequent Applied DNA partner Takis Biotech.

The Stony Brook biotech – which focused primarily on DNA-based supply-chain authentication before its 2015 acquisition of West Virginia-based Vandalia Research (and its proprietary DNA-sequencing technology) – also announced a new COVID surveillance-testing effort targeting Stony Brook University’s NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The vaccine candidate, which was designed using Applied DNA’s LinearDNA platform, is scheduled to be tested at upstate veterinary hospital Guardian Veterinary Specialists. Greenlighted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the trial will evaluate the vaccine candidate as a weapon against the virus that causes COVID-19 in feline companions – thereby mitigating the animals as “a potential reservoir for infections in humans,” according to Applied DNA.

James Hayward: Playing ball with SBU.

The trial will include a small number of healthy domestic feline pets, who will receive two doses of the vaccine candidate, which has exhibited positive preclinical results during low-dosage tests on lab mice. The cats will be tracked for six months, with researchers hoping to establish the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity (the generation of virus-neutralizing antibodies).

While no cases of feline-to-human COVID-19 transmission have been documented to date, the “scientific possibility remains,” according to Applied DNA, “given the virus’ zoonotic origin.”

“With the initiation of the redesigned veterinary trial, we progress toward potentially commercializing our lead LinearDNA vaccine candidate for use on domestic felines,” said Applied DNA President and CEO James Hayward. “[We’re] also generating valuable complementary data for potential human COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials and charting a possible development path to other animals.”

On the hardwoods, Applied DNA subsidiary Applied DNA Clinical Laboratories – an LLC the Stony Brook biotech spun off this summer – will focus its proprietary pooled-surveillance testing program, trademarked as safeCircle, on SBU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.

The platform, which leverages the biotech’s Linea COVID-19 Assay Kit, will provide surveillance testing three times a week for players and coaches, with saliva and anterior nasal swab collection systems pooled in groups of five individuals per test. Individuals in positive surveillance-testing pools will be referred for diagnostic testing.

The partnership with the men’s and women’s NCAA squads checks off several boxes for the up-and-coming surveillance-testing system, according to Hayward, who said Applied DNA is “honored to work with the Seawolves this season.”

“This agreement demonstrates continued execution on [Applied DNA Clinical Laboratories’] surveillance-testing strategy, adds prominent intercollegiate athletic teams to our client base and elevates safeCircle’s visibility in the tristate area,” the CEO added. “With COVID-19 already making its presence felt in national collegiate sports, we hope to serve as a testing model for other sports programs.”