​Initiated by the licensing of a Duke-NUS invention to Paratus, the two parties also signed an agreement to enable the potential development of other therapeutics from future collaborative research into bat immunology.

Duke-NUS and Paratus Sciences Corporation, a start-up headquartered in New York, today announced that they have signed two agreements to advance innovations in human health arising from research in bat immunology. The joint effort aims to translate insights about the biology of bats' unique resistance to disease into the development of human therapeutics, including therapeutics targeting infections and inflammation.

In the first instance, Paratus will develop a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs under a license to commercialise a Duke-NUS invention based on findings summarised in a paper recently published in the journal Cell by Professor Wang Linfa and his team from Duke-NUS' Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme.

In this paper, Prof Wang and his team revealed that a bat protein called ASC2 is a powerful inhibitor of the bat's inflammatory mechanism. The findings explain bats' ability to avoid significant illness even when they are infected with viruses that can cause symptoms in humans. The license from Duke-NUS allows Paratus to develop drug candidates that could mimic the anti-inflammatory effect of ASC2.

"The extreme stress that flying exerts on bats' cells has forced them to evolve a unique inflammation-dampening resilience. This resilience is so effective that bats can carry dangerous viruses, including coronaviruses and viruses like Ebola, without falling sick," said Prof Wang, one of the world's leading experts in zoonotic diseases, bat immunology and pathogen discovery.

"Our deep understanding of bat immunology provides a scientific foundation from which we can develop novel therapeutics. We are learning from bats to fight human diseases."

Paratus has established a subsidiary in Singapore (Paratus Sciences Singapore), headquartered at ClavystBio's Node 1, a collaborative innovation space at Singapore Science Park. Paratus Sciences Singapore will collaborate with Duke-NUS, beyond the initial technology license, on a broader investigation of bat immunology for new insights with therapeutic potential. The collaboration will bring together the biological, genomics, bioinformatics expertise of both organizations and will leverage their resources and infrastructure to find new therapeutic opportunities right here in Singapore. 

Associate Professor Christopher Laing, Vice-Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Duke-NUS, said, "Close partnerships with industry partners, starting at the earliest stages of innovation and continuing as long-term collaborations, are essential for successful transition from the lab to the clinic. With Paratus, we will not only bring one of Prof Wang's inventions closer to the market—and to patients—but will find new directions for innovative solutions based on his lab's ground-breaking research."

"We are thrilled to be strengthening our relationship with Duke-NUS and its phenomenal scientists," said Dr Phil Ferro, President of Paratus. "We believe the insights gleaned from the in-depth study of bat biology, as Professor Wang's team has demonstrated, will unlock the ability to develop many novel therapeutics for unmet needs in human health."

Reference: Ahn, M., Chen, V.C.W., Rozario, P., Ng, W.L., et al. 2023. Bat ASC2 suppresses inflammasomes and ameliorates inflammatory diseases. Cell. 2023; 186: 2144-2159.e22. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.03.036

Get updates on Tomorrow's Medicine in your mailbox!

Click here to subscribe