Synthetic virus may drive personalized medicine into precision medicine


A collaborative effort involving Auburn University, Gen9 and Autodesk has developed a synthetic viral genome for bone cancer research and one which may prove revolutionary in the battle against cancer overall.

The sCAV2 virus, which is the longest functional virus created in oncology research, targets and destroys selected tumor cells while not impacting healthy cells, notes an announcement.

“This could change the way we fight cancer. It is that revolutionary,” states Dr. Bruce Smith, a professor in the department of pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer, in the announcement. “Our concept is taking personalized medicine to precision medicine. The technology to create a new virus by synthesizing it is a huge leap, but the ability to then make a customized virus tailored to the specific needs of each patient will be transformative.”

The virus will be used in clinical trials evaluating treatment in dogs suffering from bone cancer. A synthetic solution may allow for development of therapeutic viruses for specific patient needs, notes the announcement.

“The construction of this viral genome is a tremendous step for DNA synthesis and its application to therapeutics research,” said Devin Leake, vice president of research and development at Gen9, in the announcement. “Our partnership with Autodesk and Auburn sums up what fundamentally excites us the most about the field of synthetic biology and what we do here at Gen9--collaborating with world-class scientists on the groundbreaking research that is shaping the future.”

As FierceBiotech reported in June, Autodesk is part of another collaborative effort involving nearly two dozen scientists to synthesize the human genome, called the Human Genome Project-Write.

“Living things are very complex. It’s not just big data, it’s insanely big data. Simply to organize the biological information takes state of the art computing. Understanding and synthesizing a genome is even harder,” Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski wrote in a post on Medium. “Software tools are going to be essential, even for the design of the simplest cell.”