Blood product inactivates pathogens considered most difficult to kill

By Mark A. DeSorbo

WATERTOWN, MA—A biotech firm specializing in products that remove microorganisms from donor blood says it has a system that will inactivate the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease, a pathogen that scientists have long considered one of the most potent and difficult to kill.

V.I. Technologies Inc. is presently conducting the second phase of federal clinical trials on its Inactine system, which has demonstrated the ability to inactivate a broad range of “enveloped and non-enveloped” pathogens, including the AIDS, West Nile and hepatitis viruses, while preserving the therapeutic properties of red blood cells. It also aids in the removal of other debris, including hole-boring prions associated with the brain-debilitating Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow.

“It's a nucleic acid chemistry that is designed to inactivate pathogens, viruses, bacteria and parasites,” says Francesca DeVellis, senior director of investor relations and corporate communications at V.I. Technologies Inc.

Inactine, DeVellis explains, is a clear liquid molecular compound that forms a bond to the nucleic acid of a pathogen, hindering it from replicating and thus killing it. The fact that it can kill the foot-and-mouth virus, she says, is promising because unlike the fatty and penetrable coating of enveloped germs, non-enveloped viruses, like foot-and-mouth, have a protein layer that is tough to crack, making it hard to kill.

“We're excited by the fact that our technology can kill the foot-and-mouth disease virus because that means, if there was another emerging pathogen of that depth and strength, this technology could inactivate these hard-to-kill viruses,” DeVellis adds.

Inactine liquid is first added to a unit of red blood cells. It is then incubated for 18 to 24 hours, after which the unit of red blood cells goes through a cell-washing step to remove the Inactine compound and harmful debris, like prions that can cause mad cow disease.

If approved, V.I. Technologies anticipates that the product will help ensure the safety of donor and transfusion blood supplies.

John R. Barr, president and chief executive of V.I. Technologies, believes Inactine will also serve as “a useful model to evaluate virucidal robustness.”

“The virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease is an extremely virulent pathogen and is an example of the growing challenges that can be posed by emerging pathogenic threats,” he adds.


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