Tech designed by Birmingham company used in the hunt for Coronavirus vaccine

Researcher at TriAltus Bioscience working on protein purification. Photo via TriAltus Bioscience on Facebook

TriAltus Bioscience, a UAB spinoff company that works out of Innovation Depot, developed a protein purification process that is being used by researchers in Oregon to identify a possible vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more.

TriAltus Bioscience

TriAltus Bioscience co-founders Shufflebarger and Vassylyev at Innovation Depot. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

“[TriAltus Bioscience] is on the cutting edge of a particularly important link to unlocking a vaccine for not only COVID but other studies as well. I could not be happier for TriAltus and their team.”

Drew Honeycutt, CEO at Innovation Depot

TriAltus Bioscience is a Birmingham-based biotech startup company that aims to make the production of purified proteins for research easier and faster. In research, protein purification is often a bottleneck. Since traditional methods often take days, this results in a loss of time and productivity.

So, Dr. Dmitry Vassylyev developed a novel, streamlined protein purification process while teaching at UAB. Bob Shufflebarger reached out to learn more, and together they co-founded TriAltus Bioscience. In 2017, the team won a $100,000 seed-stage grant from Alabama Launchpad—now, they operate out of Innovation Depot.

The Search for a Vaccine

The TriAltus Bioscience CL7 Tag System for protein purification. Photo via TriAltus Bioscience

Since most drugs are made of proteins or designed to work on proteins, the TriAltus Bioscience protein purification process is extremely helpful in designing new drugs, such as a potential vaccine for Coronavirus.

Researchers at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute in Portland, Oregon are working to develop a vaccine by purifying the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once purified, the spike protein will help test the effectiveness of new vaccines.

In layman’s terms, the spike protein is the key that the virus uses to get into and attack our body’s cells. To develop an immunity, we need antibodies that protect against the spike protein.

What’s Next?

Protein purification. Photo via TriAltus Bioscience on Facebook

Already, the Chiles Research Institute team has tested the TriAltus purification system to purify spike protein growth from Chinese hamster ovary cells. So, they know that the purification process works. Now, the Chiles Research Institute has applied for human clinical vaccine trials with the FDA. Once approved, they can move into testing with human cells.

This rapid response could not have happened without the work of the team at TriAltus Bioscience and the resources and opportunities they had due to UAB, Innovation Depot, Alabama Launchpad and more.

Excited to see Birmingham lead the way in medical research? Tag us @bhamnow and share your thoughts!

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.