Synthetic Biology (and beyond) Community response to COVID-19

Many organizations across biotech and synthetic biology are working hard to develop new diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics against COVID-19. Here is a running (non-comprehensive!) list of some of what we’ve seen so far, with a focus on these areas:

Research tools
Community resources and accelerators
Environmental testing
Manufacturing and scale-up

If you are working on something you’d like to share, could use support for, or if you know of other great projects missing from this list, please email [email protected].

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There are many excellent resources for open public health, virology, and immunology data that are supporting efforts against COVID-19.


Viral biology


Viral tracking and evolution

  • 🧬 Ares Genetics β€” Next generation sequencing of virus to track evolution
  • 🧬 Nextstrain – Real time tracking of viral evolution


Public health tracking


Immune response characterization


Clinical trials data


Other data and news aggregators

Research tools

Molecules derived from the virusβ€”nucleic acids like RNA or DNA, or proteinsβ€”are valuable tools for COVID-19 R&D, forming the basis of diagnostics as well as being essential for developing and testing new vaccines and treatments. These companies are offering antigens, antibodies, RNA, and DNA for COVID-19 research.

Research test kits β€” qPCR


Research test kits β€” Immunoassays


Nucleic acids


Antigens, antibodies, and enzymes




Community resources and accelerators



At this stage in the pandemic, widespread testing is essential to slowing the spread of the virus. Many organizations, from hospitals to academic labs, startups to multinationals have stepped up to develop, manufacture, and scale up testing kits. Check out the FDA’s page tracking diagnostic tests for more information and for an exhaustive list and this document for a detailed background on how these tests work.

Nucleic Acid Tests




CRISPR based diagnostics


Other diagnostic testsΒ 

  • 🌑 MiProbes β€” Rapid test to identify viral proteins


Testing hubs


Automation and scaling protocols

  • πŸ€– Hamilton
  • πŸ€– OpenCell β€” Scaling up testing infrastructure
  • πŸ€– OpenTrons β€” Scale up of testing automation
  • πŸ€– Salis Lab β€” Protocols for massively parallel testing
  • πŸ€– Zymergen β€” Supporting automation for testing at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub


Environmental testing

Testing for the presence of virus on surfaces and in other environments like sewers can help track and monitor for the spread of COVID.



A large number of new and repurposed medicines are making their way through preclinical research and clinical trials to get to the patients that need it most. This list is biased for biologic drugs, such as antibodies, rather than small molecule therapeutics that could treat infection. Many of these therapies use antibodies, often derived from the blood plasma of patients that have recovered from coronavirus, to help the immune system of patients fight the virus directly.

Antibody therapies in development

  • πŸ’Š AbCellera β€” Developing antibody therapy with Eli Lilly
  • πŸ’Š CytoDyn β€” Phase 2 trial antibody therapeutic
  • πŸ’Š Emergent BioSolutions β€” Plasma-derived antibody therapy
  • πŸ’Š Kamada β€” Plasma derived IgG therapy
  • πŸ’Š La Jolla InstituteΒ β€” Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium
  • πŸ’Š Regeneron β€” Plasma derived antibody therapy
  • πŸ’Š Takeda β€” Plasma derived IgG therapy
  • πŸ’Š Vir β€” Developing antibody therapy with Bingen


Rapid antibody discovery


Other therapeuticsΒ 

  • πŸ’Š Alnylam β€” siRNA based therapeutics with Vir
  • πŸ’Š CEL-SCI β€” Immunotherapy using peptide
  • πŸ’Š Pentelute Lab, MIT β€” Peptide binder to spike protein
  • πŸ’Š Voigt Lab, MIT β€” High throughput therapeutics discovery



In the long term, vaccines are essential for eradicating the thread of dangerous pathogens. Many groups are in the process of developing and testing several different kinds of vaccines. Vaccines train the immune system to recognize the virus so that it can be ready to clear the virus at the first sign of infection. Vaccines can be made from a number of different biological molecules: DNA, RNA, proteins, virus like particles, or live attenuated virus. Check out the WHO landscape of candidate vaccines for more.

Live attenuated virus vaccines


Virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines

  • πŸ’‰ Medicago β€” expressed in plants


Non-replicating viral vector vaccines


mRNA vaccines


DNA vaccines

  • πŸ’‰ AnGes Inc. β€” In collaboration with with Osaka University
  • πŸ’‰ Inovio
  • πŸ’‰ Takis β€” with Applied DNA Sciences and Evvivax
  • πŸ’‰ Zydus Cadila


Protein vaccines


Other vaccines



Manufacturing and scale up

Once a new antiviral therapeutic or vaccine is developed and tested, it needs to be scaled up for delivery.

Other products

  • 🧼 Amyrisβ€”hand sanitizer


Are we missing something? Please email [email protected].

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