New solid-state storage platform for biological materials

Scientists have developed a groundbreaking method for solid-state storage of biological materials like RNA and proteins, presenting it in the form of a pill or tablet that dissolves in water when needed. This innovation offers a promising solution to the current challenges faced in storing and handling products derived from living , crucial for medical and scientific research purposes.

Biological materials used in developing medicines and diagnostic tools, such as mRNA, enzymes, and antibodies, are highly sensitive to changes in ambient conditions during storage and transport. Improper storage can lead to degradation or loss of activity, hindering access to these materials, especially in resource-limited and underserved communities.

For example, the Pfizer COVID vaccine rollout faced limitations due to the requirement for deep freezers during storage and transport. Refrigeration failures, which occur in over 10% of cases, result in significant financial losses annually, according to IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science.

To address these limitations, researchers from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, CA, developed a new method for storing biological materials, offering immense potential for the scientific and medical communities.

Currently, most biological materials are stored as frozen or refrigerated liquids and freeze-dried powders, with the absence of a tablet-like form limiting their accessibility and distribution.

Dr. Javin Oza, associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry at Cal Poly, led the research on this new solid-state storage platform. Just as tablets have revolutionized medication intake, this platform opens up new possibilities for handling and using biological materials, unlocking their potential for existing therapies and emerging biotechnologies.

Biological materials typically require frozen storage throughout their shelf life. While freeze-drying has improved storage and handling, solid-state storage represents a significant advancement, allowing packaging of biological materials into tablets that remain stable at room temperature and dissolve in water for immediate use.

The innovation ensures the stability and activity of biological materials, while tablets disintegrate and dissolve quickly in water, akin to an Alka-Seltzer tablet.

In a remarkable test case, the researchers demonstrated the solid-state storage platform's ability to preserve a complex mixture of biologics, including the cell's machinery responsible for decoding genetic information into RNA and proteins. When added to water, the machinery reactivated, functioning as if still within the cell. Additionally, the researchers demonstrated that emerging biotechnology tools like CRISPR can be activated after storage in a solid-state.

The implications of this research are vast. Storing biologics at room temperature and activating them on-demand could facilitate delivering therapeutics to remote locations where refrigeration is unavailable. It opens the possibility of on-demand vaccine production in remote areas and simplifies diagnostic testing, from COVID-19 screening to detecting wastewater contaminants.

The platform's user-friendly nature reduces the need for specialized training, improving access to biologics at the point of need.

While additional modifications may be necessary for specific use cases, such as coatings to withstand extreme environments, the potential benefits are immense. Solid-state biologics could revolutionize medication administration, allowing drugs like insulin and Humira to be taken orally instead of through injections.

As the biotechnology field continues to grow rapidly, the impact of this innovation extends beyond healthcare to biomanufacturing, education, and research. It could transform how biologics are transported globally and even aid in on-demand production of life-saving therapies in space.

Overall, this novel method for solid-state storage has the potential to revolutionize how biological materials are stored, handled, and utilized, leading to significant advancements in medical treatments and research endeavors.

Source: California Polytechnic State University

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