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The Quest for Universal Vaccines

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

Universal vaccines may be a game changer for future infections. Researchers say a universal flu vaccine could be within reach sooner rather than later, although though it may be years before a vaccine is ready for human use (Farzan, 2020).Farzan (2020) mentions on National Public Radio (NPR) that: “in the future, one vaccination for a given pathogen could provide protection from multiple flu strains, and perhaps last longer than a single season.” Routh (April 3, 2019) reported last year that the first clinical trial of an innovative universal influenza vaccine candidate was successfully initiated and the main effort for now is to assess the vaccine’s safety and tolerability.

Ultimately, the objective is the vaccine’s ability to induce an immune response in healthy volunteers. The CDC (2020) estimates that the flu shot reduces your risk of getting infected by 40% to 60%, assuming the statistically determined strains for the upcoming season match the vaccine. The end of the school year for many schools across the United States will take place withinthe next week or so. Many discussions and strategies are already in the planning phase for face-to-face school interactions in the fall, as it reflects the various phases of easing state restrictions pertaining to COVID-19 containment. What will the fall look like for student and employee health?

Currently, influenza vaccinations records are, in most instances, a requirement for a child’s health profile. The 2021-2022 school year in the United States may be the first year where there may be real promise of a COVID-19 vaccine. Although a vaccination for COVID-19 is still six to 12 months away, the discussion of a universal vaccine has become even more important. A universal SARS vaccine for combatting future outbreaks and coronavirus infections will be ideal. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) is a contagious and sometimes fatal respiratory illness that was identified about 18 years ago and it looks like it is here to stay.

For most day care facilities, elementary and secondary schools, most likely, health updates and school records will require certain health standards as they pertain to vaccination records, necessary for school enrollment and employment. Conventional influenza vaccines are designed to stimulate distinct neutralizing antibodies to attack highly variable hemagglutinin antigens. Sometimes these seasonal vaccines are suboptimal for rapidly changing influenza viruses. Nevertheless, some protection is needed and new technologies for developing influenza vaccines are on the horizon. Achieving a consensus among scientists and health professionals on a common definition, “including scope of protection and clinical endpoints, may help to focus research efforts.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a branch of the NIH, says it will likely be another 10 to 15 years before a universal flu vaccine is on the market.Vaccines for smallpox, mumps and rubella are longer lasting but the changes and mutations in influenza and now SARS-CoV-2 will be a tough battle. Given the current need, is it likely that a universal SARS vaccine may be available before a universal flu vaccine?

References:

Farzan, S. (February 27, 2020). Researchers Step Up Efforts To Develop A ‘Universal’ Flu Vaccine. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/02/...

Ostrowsky, J., Arpey, M., Moore, K., Osterholm, M., Friede, M., Gordon, J., … & Bresee, J. (2020). Tracking progress in universal influenza vaccine development. Current Opinion in Virology, 40, 28-36. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...

Routh, J. (April 3, 2019). NIH begins first-in-human trial of a universal influenza vaccine candidate. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-...

Reprint from the Hopkins Biotech Network: https://hopkinsbio.org/alumni/universal-vaccine-pe...

​Using Aptamers in Vaccine Innovation for 2020

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

In these times of the COVID-19 pandemic there is a race to find cures and vaccines throughout the world get control of the viral threat. According to Marketwatch (April 9, 2020) they report that 21 companies are working tirelessly on coronavirus treatments or vaccines. I am not going to review those 21 company vaccine efforts however, the link below in the references has been provided. More so I am touching on the use of aptamers in vaccine development and pharmaceutical therapy in times such as this. With time being of the essence for faster production of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, aptamer use in vaccine technology has emerged among topics of discussion. From what I understand, aptamer technology has been around for decades but in the recent decade it was been used more in the development of vaccine technology.

The use of aptamers has attracted the attention of many scientists that are seeking customized ways that would otherwise takes perhaps a year or years to develop in an antibody production. “Aptamers are oligonucleotides, such as ribonucleic acid (RNA) and single-strand deoxyribonucleic acid (ssDNA) or peptide molecules that can bind to their molecular targets with high affinity and specificity due to their specific three-dimensional structures”( Song, 2012). Aptamers have all the general advantages of antibodies, but also have benefits of thermal stability, low cost production, and increasingly unlimited applications. Aptamers are known as alternatives to antibodies. Lui and associates (2020)point out in their recent publication that there are “two Korean patents that describe the use of RNA aptamers for inhibition of SARS viruses: patent (1) application (KR2009128837) identifies RNA aptamers as anti-SARS agents capable of binding to and inhibiting the double-stranded DNA unwinding of the SARS virus helicase; patent (2) application (KR 2012139512) describes RNA aptamers with distinct affinity for the nucleocapsid of SARS-CoV for potential pharmaceutical use.

Numerous analytical techniques, such as electrochemical, colorimetric, optical, and mass-sensitive methods, can be utilized to detect targets, due to convenient modifications and the stability of aptamers. Finally, several medical and analytical applications of aptamers are presented. In summary, aptamers are promising materials for diverse areas, not just as alternatives to antibodies, but as the core components of medical and analytical equipment

“Aptamers usually consist of 15 to 50 nucleotides and have an molecular weight ranging from 5 to 15 kDa.37” (Kaur, et. al, 2018). They have a low immunogenicity because nucleic acids are generally not recognized by the human immune system.Hidding (2016) points out that disadvantages of aptamers may be solved by using antibodies instead and choosing both in combination with aptamers in order to get synergistic effects could amplify each other’s strengths(p.17). Combinations of the two during this covid-19 viral threat could result in very promising therapeutics. Aptamers are an alternative to antibodies in many biological applications based on the literature.I highly encourage reading more about apatamers. More to come about the applications in the upcoming months and years.

References:

Baird, G. (2014) .Application of Aptamers in the Clinical Laboratory - Geoffrey Baird, MD, PhD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FV9ECPICQc

Hidding, J. (2016). A therapeutic battle: Antibodies vs. Aptamers. Nanoscience master program, 1-20.

Kaur, H., Bruno, J. G., Kumar, A., & Sharma, T. K. (2018). Aptamers in the therapeutics and diagnostics pipelines. Theranostics, 8(15), 4016.

Lee, J. (April 9. 2020).These 21 companies are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines here’s where things stand. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/these-nine-compa...

Liu, C., Zhou, Q., Li, Y., Garner, L. V., Watkins, S. P., Carter, L. J., ... & Albaiu, D. (2020). Research and development on therapeutic agents and vaccines for COVID-19 and related human coronavirus diseases.

Reinemann, C., & Strehlitz, B. (2014). Aptamer-modified nanoparticles and their use in cancer diagnostics and treatment. Swiss medical weekly, 144(0102).

Song, K. M., Lee, S., & Ban, C. (2012). Aptamers and their biological applications. Sensors, 12(1), 612-631

Wolter, O., & Mayer, G. (2017). Aptamers as valuable molecular tools in neurosciences. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(10), 2517-2523.

Transformational Leadership in Innovation

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

Amabile and Khaire (2008) report that creativity means “the ability to create something novel and appropriate” (p.1). Appreciating what each person must bring to the table of creativity is very vital to a leader promoting innovation within an organization. Amabile and Khaire add that the importance of a leader’s role in not only fostering creativity in employees and organizations but specifically engaging the key people to create and innovate.

Countless articles and books have published about the application of creativity and innovation in business, industry, government, and education (Black,2012, p.13).Black adds that various perspectives of creativity and innovation have debated in the literature depicting the varying values and depths to where creativity and innovation emerge. Identifying what enhances creativity in followers and what discourages creativity is crucial for leadership effectiveness for change.Transformational leadership has gained recognition in the literature as an inspirational and motivational leadership which is very crucial in the early stages of entrepreneurship and innovation (Gardner and Avolio,1998).

The legendary Schumpeter (1934) wrote that the heart of entrepreneurship originates through the very creativity and networks which can eventually lead to innovation. A current thought leader in creativity, Owens (2011), professes that organizations may unconsciously kill innovation based on their intrinsic culture practices and their unwillingness to try new approaches.The book “Creative People Must be Stopped”, Owen writes that some firms may be unaware that a creativity- sabotaging-culture may be affecting innovation. He submits that six constraints can inhibit creativity in an environment, and those constraints are individual constraints, group constraints, organizational constraints, industry constraints, technology constraints, and societal constraints (p. 8).

Owens (2011) explains that individual constraints in this context are when individuals believe that they do not think they are different (p. 8).Another component for constraints is that groups may unknowingly allow negative emotions to evaluate new ideas.Janis (1972) proffers that the concept of groupthink is a deterioration of mental efficiency in the interest of the group (p. 9).The next component of organizations is designed to produce consistent results however when innovation that threatens the output of consistent results then the situation may be grim. The ability to consider and adopt new technologies may require a proven reliability and effectiveness (Owens, 2011, p.10).

Owens (2011) also proposes that a way to enhance innovations is that an individual must improve their overall cognitive skills and recognize their value and embrace relevant new ideas (p. 10). Another recommendation is that groups must be designed to support collaboration, risk-taking, and transparent communication.New ideas must be considered legitimate and acceptable. Lastly, for new technologies, there must be significant investment and development (p.12).

Transformational leaders should recognize the importance of creativity in advancing their organizational goals.By developing the ability to lead for creativity, they will be able to solve problems that matter and to compete effectively in a world where people are looking for products and services that meet their needs.Leaders should consider steps they can take to foster a culture where creativity thrives and adopt structures to support that culture.For example, some organizations may benefit from formally establishing creativity teams, whereas others may choose to have innovation departments.

References:

Amabile, T. M., & Khaire, M. (2008). Creativity and the role of the leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2008/10/creativity-and-the-role-of-the-leader

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. Free Press; Collier Macmillan.

Black, R. A. (2012). Keep creativity alive. Communication World, 29(2), 13.

Brown, T. (2016). Teaching Creativity to Leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/07/teaching-creativity-to-leaders

Gardner, W. L., & Avolio, B. J. (1998). The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective. Academy of management review, 23(1), 32-58.

Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes.

Owens, D. A. (2011). Creative People must be stopped: 6 ways we kill Innovation (Without even trying). John Wiley & Sons.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle (Vol. 55). Transaction publishers

Creativity Inspired by Transformational Leadership

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

Brown (2016) posits that leadership that inspires and motivates creativity is not about leaders becoming creative, but more about individuals leading for creativity (p.1). Bass (1985) proposes that a “transformational leader is one who is proactive and dynamic and inspires subordinates to do more than they are expected to do initially” (p.2278). Amabile and Khaire (2008) add that the element of creativity means the gift to create something novel (p.1).Appreciating what each person has to bring to the table of creativity is very vital to a leader promoting innovation within an organization. The importance of a leaders role is specifically engaging the right people to create a creative, competitive environment (p.3).

Black (2012) professes that countless articles and books have published about the application of creativity and innovation in business, industry, government, and education (p.13).He adds that various perspectives of creativity and innovation have debated in the literature depicting the varying values and depths to where creativity and innovation emerge. Identifying what enhances creativity in followers and what discourages creativity is crucial for leadership effectiveness for change.Gardner and Avolio (1998) acknowledge that transformational leadership has gained recognition in the literature as an inspirational and motivational leadership(p.36).

Over eight decades ago, Schumpeter (1934) proffered that the heart of entrepreneurship originates through creativity and networks, which can lead to innovation. (p. xxvii). A prominent thought leader in creativity, Owens (2011), professes that organizations may unconsciously kill innovation based on intrinsic culture practices (p. 6).Owens explains through his book, Creative People Must be Stopped,that some firms may be unaware that creativity is sabotaged by the culture that it supports or the attitudes held by management.He submits that six constraints can inhibit creativity in an environment, and those constraints are individual constraints, group constraints, organizational constraints, industry constraints, technology constraints, and societal constraints (p. 8).

Owens (2011) elaborates by commenting that the individual constraints are when individuals believe that they do not think they are different (p. 8).Another component is that groups can allow negative emotions to evaluate new ideas.Janis (1972) proffers that groupthink is a deterioration of mental efficiency in the interest of the group (p. 9).The next component of organizations is designed to produce consistent results (Owens, 2011 p. 9).Owens comments that innovation that threatens the output then it is doomed.Industries geared towards the economic status quo may be inconsistent with prevailing norms and ethics. New technologies require proven reliability and effectiveness (Owens, 2011, p.10).

Owens (2011) also proposes that a way to fix innovations is that an individual must improve their cognitive skills and recognize their value and relevant new ideas (p. 10).He expresses that groups must be designed to support collaboration, risk-taking, and transparent communication.Owens also posits organizations must support risk-taking and entrepreneurial endeavors.For industries, Owens asserts that the creation of new products, markets, and enterprises are essential.For society, new ideas must be considered legitimate and acceptable. Lastly, for new technologies, there have to be significant investment and development (p.12).

Transformational leaders should recognize the importance of creativity in advancing their organizational goals.By developing the ability to lead for creativity, they will be able to solve problems that matter and to compete effectively in a world where people are looking for products and services that meet their needs.Leaders should consider steps they can take to foster a culture where creativity thrives and adopt structures to support that culture.For example, some organizations may benefit from formally establishing creativity teams, whereas others may choose to have innovation departments.Multidisciplinary representation of creativity teams could enhance the efficiency of idea generation and commercialization planning as the various departments are involved throughout the innovation/design process.

References:

Amabile, T. M., & Khaire, M. (2008). Creativity and the role of the leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2008/10/creativity-and-the-role-of-the-leader

Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. Free Press; Collier Macmillan.

Black, R. A. (2012). Keep creativity alive. Communication World, 29(2), 13.

Brown, T. (2016). Teaching Creativity to Leaders. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/07/teaching-creativity-to-leaders

Gardner, W. L., & Avolio, B. J. (1998). The charismatic relationship: A dramaturgical perspective. Academy of management review, 23(1), 32-58.

Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: a psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes.

Owens, D. A. (2011). Creative People must be stopped: 6 ways we kill Innovation (Without even trying). John Wiley & Sons.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle (Vol. 55). Transaction publishers.

Considerations for the Business of Early Stage Biotech

Blog Post by: Lawrence Jones, Ph.D.

In the business of early-stage biotech perhaps“competing is no longer about creating dominance in scale-intensive industries; it’s about producing elegant, refined products and services in imagination-intensive Industries” (Martin, 2004, p.7). Dean Roger Martin, from the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto, published this statement over a decade ago was echoing new strategy to competing in the global economy.Martin (2004) adds that competition will be evaluated more during this era of post-2004 by the design revolution in business (p.7).The design revolution views the market through the lens of the application of design thinking (p.7). Martin mentions that the conversion of heuristics to algorithms mainly defined value creation in the 20th century.

Jones (2016) adds that an algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations. Martin (2004) posits that business people need to become more like designers that are masters of heuristics rather than managers of algorithms (p.7).This thought may not work well for biotechnology scientists conducting laboratory research. However, this may suggest that in the 21st century, design skills and business skills are converging. Heuristics play essential roles in both problem-solving and decision-making.

Brown and Wyatt (2010) explain how design thinking evolved from the merger of David Kelley Design and ID Two, which formed IDEO in 1991 (p.33).Within a decade, IDEO began consulting for organizational design and essentially began to design more consumer experiences than consumer products (p.33).David Kelly, the founder of Stanford’s design school, coined the phrase design thinking when explaining what designers do (p.33).Overall design thinking draws from overlapping life experiences by general problem-solving.

According to Brown and Wyatt (2010), “design thinking process is the best thought of a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps” (p.33). “There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation”.“Inspiration is a problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions” (p.33). “Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas and implementation as the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives” (p. 33).

Berkun (2007) advises in the book “The Myth of Innovation,” that there are challenges to innovation such as finding an idea, developing a solution, sponsorship and funding, reproduction, reaching potential customers, beating competitors, timing, and keeping the lights on are hurdles to overcome (pp. 44-45).Design thinking applied to each of these challenges will provide potential options.Design thinking, according to Silvers (2013),is scalable and flexible.The thought is that this process, particularly for any non-profit, has the potential to be cost-effective regardless of the operation.As a human-centered process of innovation, design thinking can reveal a multitude of methods and talent amongst the design team, which can create change unimaginable until the process launches.

The pace of innovation can produce fears and uncertainties for the general consumer, but new approaches to reduce the anxieties for consumers are great ways to design thinking to play pivotal roles.Design thinking is disruptive, and it may be an enabler to grasp the pace of innovation.The future holds that people must come first. The way to design will start by observing the people.

References

Berkun, S. (2007). The Myths of Innovation. Canada.

Brown, T., & Wyatt, J. (2010). Design thinking for social innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review. 29-35

Jones, L. (November 10, 2016). Rethinking and Refining Business Thinking. The Transcript. Hopkinsbio.org. Hopkins Biotech Network, Baltimore, Maryland

Martin, R. (2004, Winter). The design of business. Rotman Management, 5(1), 6-10.

Silvers, D.M. (December 10, 2013). Design Thinking: A Powerful Tool for Your Non-profit. NTEN.org

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