We’ve heard a lot about viruses lately, and I bet you’ve never thought that we should have more of them, right?

Well, this is exactly my goal, I want to make as many viruses as possible.

My name is Brian Ladd and while it may sound like I am some kind of a supervillain, I am actually a PhD student working to cure a wide range of diseases from Alzheimer’s to Muscular Dystrophy. To do this I am going to need viruses, a lot of viruses. A virus is just a set of instructions that your body follows wrapped up in a special package called the capsid. In a wild virus, this set of instructions makes your body produce more of that virus, and this is why a wild virus can be dangerous because your body will keep making more and more of them in a chain reaction.

A wild virus

It is possible to hack into these instructions and swap them out with something that you want your body to do, to fight back against Alzheimer’s for example.

When you swap out the set of instructions inside the capsid you transform the wild virus to a viral vector.

A wild virus to a viral vector

There are many new viral vector therapies under development. The vector I am working with, Adeno-associated-virus (AAV), has a number of very exciting candidates. Including possible treatments for Alzheimer’s and Hemophilia.

The problem though is that currently there is not a good way to make a lot of these viral vectors, and to treat these diseases we are going to need A LOT of them. This is the goal of my PhD project.

In order to swap out the “wild” viral instruction for the ones that we want I use special chemicals that I treat lab grown human cells with to make them produce the viral vectors.

These chemicals though, are a 1000x more expensive than gold so it’s really important to use them in the best way possible.

To do this I use a variety of sophisticated tools to study how these chemicals interact with each other and with the cells. With this knowledge, I can create mathematical models of how they interact with each other and by using engineering principles I aim to increase the number of viral vectors that we can produce.

The strategies and tools that I use are high cell density cultivations, continuous manufacturing, and single cell transcriptomics. With these I hope to increase the efficiency of viral vector production, enabling the testing of novel treatments that have the potential to improve the lives of millions.

Viral vectors offer the potential for a cure

I hope by now I have convinced you that I am not some kind a super villain but a researcher working together with many other scientists in the fight against a wide range of diseases and hopefully, one day, improve the quality of life for millions. But if you still aren’t convinced, please check out the following links.

If you would like to read more about the details about how high cell density perfusion cultures and continuous manufacturing can improve viral vector production then please visit: https://www.kth.se/adbiopro/research-program/project-p4-1.950562

For more details about the use of single cell transcriptomics: https://www.staccato-eid.eu/

Posted by Brian.