Craigslist.com fuels biotech's hunt for flu therapies

Crowdsourcing has empowered many different facets of biotech from funding startups to solving scientific riddles. Craigslist.com might seem like an unlikely influence on this trend, yet drug researcher Sea Lane Biotechnologies tapped the major classifieds website to find samples for breaking flu research.

Sea Lane used ads on Craigslist to gather specimens for the flu study, which involved building a comprehensive library consisting of billions of antibodies that peoples' immune systems generated in response to various types of flu virus. Working with scientists at the Scripps Research Institute, the biotech group found an antibody with an amazing ability to bind to many variations of influenza type A viruses, as published this week in the journal Nature. This discovery of the antibody dubbed C05 and its structure could pave the way to universal flu vaccines and treatments against the virus.

Crowdsourcing has taken many forms in biotech in recent years, as researchers take advantage of the wide reach of the Internet and social media to raise funds, gather research samples, solicit ideas and even crack the code on protein structures. For instance, the Open Source Drug Discovery initiative in India uses an online platform to bring together scientists to tackle studies for new tuberculosis treatments. With the online game Foldit, the University of Washington has harnessed brain power from scientists and non-experts to uncover mysteries about complex proteins.

- here's the release

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