What We're Reading: CRISPR Coronavirus Tests; New PDUFA Date for BMS CAR T Therapy; Teams Design Cheap Ventilators

May 6, 2020

Investigators hope that an experimental test could detect the novel coronavirus at a much lower cost than current tests; the FDA has extended the action date for a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy application from Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS); engineering teams devise inexpensive ventilators for emergency use.

Experimental Prototype Uses CRISPR Technology to Test for Coronavirus

A team of researchers has produced an experimental prototype of a test to diagnose the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) using CRISPR gene-editing technology, according to The New York Times. Other groups have published results of experiments with CRISPR-based coronavirus tests, but the new method uses a simpler process that reduces the cost to about $6 per test. However, experts cautioned that the tests are merely a proof of concept and the findings have not undergone peer review, making it unclear how the test would fare in real-world conditions.

FDA Extends Action Date for BMS’ CAR T-Cell Therapy by 3 Months

After Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) submitted additional information to supplement its biologics license application for lisocabtagene maraleucel (liso-cel), the FDA has extended the Prescription Drug User Fee Act date by 3 months to November 16, 2020. The extension was announced in a release from BMS in which the company noted that it remains committed to bringing the therapy to patients. Lisocabtagene maraleucel is a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for the treatment of relapsed/refractory large B-cell lymphoma in adults who have tried at least 2 prior therapies.

Teams Devise Low-Cost Ventilators, Aiming to Boost Global Supply

Engineering departments at universities nationwide are teaming up to design low-cost emergency ventilators after the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered shortages in the supply chain, Forbes reports. For instance, a team led by C. Nataraj, PhD, an engineering professor at Villanova University, has produced a prototype of a ventilator that could be manufactured by local businesses for less than $1000. Although manufacturing will not be ramped up in time to help with the first wave of COVID-19 in the United States, the devices emerging from these efforts could help hospitals if there is a second wave or could be sent to low-income countries with an already low supplies of ventilators.