Singapore government is taking steps towards expanding the commercial use of drones to manage air traffic in future skies. In the first of such trials which are scheduled for March this year, multiple drones will take to the skies near Marina South Pier to test the effectiveness of an unmanned air traffic management system. If the trial is successful, it could be used to safely and efficiently manage drone traffic at scale.
The drones are built-in with a technology that makes sure that it does not collide with other drones using an automated system. This system can deconflict and monitor multiple drones flying in Singapore’s limited air space.
Sanjay Suresh, Head, Business Development, Nova Sytems Asia shared that first, the system lays out the flight plan for the drone after checking the flight schedule and path of other drones. The system also can alert the done through multiple channels in case there is a change in other drone’s direction or flight time.
The team at Nova Sytems has run numerous tests with more than 500 drones at the same time in a virtual setting. The live test that is scheduled for the second week March is the final milestone before the project is launched. Up to 6 drones will fly above the waters in the Maritime Drone Estate near the Marina South Pier. This minimises the risk to people and property while simulating real-time marine use cases.
“We want to fully stress test the system to make sure that a package needs to be delivered from the shore to a ship is fully aware that there are other drones performing rescue operations and doing vessel checks. We want to do this as we see it as a very possible future scenario” says Ryan Lee, Managing Director, Nova Systems Asia.
Data like the ship positions and scheduled movements will be included to help drones avoid them during the trial. The operators can also add weather conditions and flight patterns of migratory birds in future so that the drones can respond to these situations
The trial is also pivotal for the authorities as it will help them set in place the regulations with drone use likely to be ubiquitous in the near future. Ryan shares that the days are not far when people might have their own drones fetching them meals and goods from the market. Therefore, it is important to set regulations in place on time.
In trying to understand an unmanned traffic management system and the need to test it we found out that aircraft are guided safely by air traffic controllers communicating with pilots via radio, a system known as air traffic management (ATM). This direct, point-to-point, line-of-sight communication between an operator and an aircraft is the industry’s standard mode of operation. But estimates show that the growth of commercial air traffic is will ultimately exceed the capacity of a human-centred system—and this is just for human-piloted flights.
As unmanned and self-piloted operations continue to multiply, ATM systems will need to shift to a more scalable model: a digital system that can monitor and manage increased activity. This system is called Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), or a networked collection of services that communicate together based on common rules. Rather than relying on centralised control, UTM frameworks around the world will use the principle of distributed authority, which opens up the system to more service providers who can adapt as the market evolves and needs change.
In practice, UTM means aircraft will no longer have to speak to a single entity, such as an assigned air traffic controller. Instead, it will be able to communicate freely with multiple service suppliers. These suppliers will be held to relevant safety, security and performance standards by authorities, and will be able to coordinate with the rest of the network to make efficient decisions based on specific flight objectives. The transition will be gradual, but one that is important for the global aviation system’s future viability.
The Science Park at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University held a special event to train people in the industrial sector in “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology”. The “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology” training program was held on 2 and 3 April 2021, including both theoretical and practice sessions.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., President of Khon Kaen University, who conveyed the opening address. Dr Apirachai Wongsriworaphon, Director of Khon Kaen University Science Park made a welcoming speech and reported about the objectives of the event.
Participants included personnel from the industrial sector, both governmental and private. The event was also under preventive measures against Covid-19 at the Main Building of the Northeast Science Park, Khon Kaen.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rawee Hanpachoen, a full-time professor of the Faculty of Architecture; an expert and researcher from the Smart City Operational Centre; Khun Pongpat Kangkong, Manager of the Smart City Operational Centre (SCOPC); and Khun Suchat Prommee, a Drone Technology expert, were the trainers of the program.
The Northeast Science Park at Khon Kaen University, as the network node for the operation of the Northeast Science Park, organized this event under the mission to develop technological competency of personnel in the industrial sector (Brain Power Skill Up) and under the Regional Future Manpower and Skills Creation Project, which answer the national innovation development plans.
The event was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and was aimed at increasing skills for personnel in the industrial sector to accommodate the changes of technologies that will arise in the future.
Drone tech in Thailand
According to an earlier article, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out an artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.
The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Depa President and Chief Executive said the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and start-up incubation.
About 200 million baht will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another THB50 million. Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.
“Drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics,” said the Depa President. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand, he said.
Experts from India and Japan discussed possibilities of collaboration for the promotion of hydrogen-based technologies. They also explored related innovations, trends, concerns, and solutions at a webinar on De-carbonisation: Exploring the Hydrogen Prospects and Innovative Technologies.
The areas for India-Japan hydrogen research are cost reduction and improved performance for fuel cells, and hydrogen storage. Also, challenges for viable green hydrogen process routes, significant investments required for research infrastructure, and support for commercialisation, according to a press release.
Professor Kojima Yoshitsugu from the National Science Centre for Basic Research and Development, Hiroshima University, said that ammonia could be a potential hydrogen carrier because of its high hydrogen densities. “Direct combustion of ammonia is also possible without emission of carbon dioxide. The heat of combustion of ammonia is above 1.3 times of liquid hydrogen,” he added.
The webinar was jointly organised by the Embassy of India in Japan, the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the Indian Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The event was held on 19 April and provided a platform for the experts to deliberate on the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, and practical challenges and solutions.
Researchers also spoke about renewable hydrogen for disruptive decarbonisation. Hydrogen enables high efficiency and zero or near-zero-emissions operations. Green hydrogen will be good for industrial processes, chemicals producing, iron and steel, food, semiconductors, and refineries. The two sides will explore opportunities for co-innovation in accelerating green hydrogen to reduce dependency on petroleum imports.
The webinar also highlighted the IIT-Madras Research Park, which facilitates the promotion of research and development by the institute in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development. It also elaborated on the challenges in using fuel cells, like the non-existence of hydrogen fuel infrastructure and the difficulties related to hydrogen storage and transportation.
An expert from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore underlined the sustainable route of generating hydrogen using biomass, hydrogen from a range of sources, utilising, dispensing, storing, and distributing. It creates a level playing field for all sources of green hydrogen.
Hydrogen gas is a fuel with plenty of potentials. But because it is highly combustible, managing it safely is key. The advantages of a hydrogen energy system are that hydrogen gas is generated using a renewable energy source, instead of fossil fuels. It can be stored safely and is a clean, alternative power source, a Professor at the Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, explained.
The potential scale of hydrogen demand growth in India is significant. The costs of green hydrogen will start to compete with fossil fuel-derived hydrogen by 2030, at the latest. Hydrogen should be targeted at those sectors where direct electrification is not well-suited.
Representatives from the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan stressed the importance of green hydrogen and energy of system integration. The National Thermal Power Corporation noted that green hydrogen shall play a very important role. Along with pilots, NTPC is pursuing efforts with various stakeholders to shift to green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and industries. Also, fertilisers, refining, and long-range heavy-duty transportation blending into gas grids and energy storage.
The experts agreed that hydrogen could be a good alternative because of its capability of producing lower emissions and less pollution and looked forward to collaborations between groups in India and Japan to that end.
An automated general waste collection system in Maroochydore, Queensland, will be operational in July 2021. Waste and recyclables from buildings and street bins in the new 53 ha Maroochydore City Centre will be pumped through a 6.5 km network of underground pipes, at speeds of up to 70 km/h, to a collection station for transfer to disposal or recycling facilities.
Each building in the CBD will include at least three waste inlets, for organic, recyclable and general waste. Waste dropped into each inlet will be stored in a sealed compartment underground until a vacuum pump is activated at the central waste facility, usually twice a day.
Once delivered to the central facility through a network of sealed vacuum pipes, each waste type will be stored in sealed compactors to await collection by a council contractor. The design of the new city centre began in 2015 to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, civic and community uses to complement the area’s existing business offerings.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Group Executive of Customer Engagement and Planning Services, James Ruprai, said that although COVID-19 delayed the commissioning of the system, it is expected to be operational by mid-2021.
The waste collection system was designed by a Swedish firm and manufactured in South Korea. It will be extended as the development of the Maroochydore City Centre progresses. A high-speed fibre-optic network will also be installed in the centre’s foundations to enable the council to provide smart signage, free Wi-Fi hotspots, real-time transport information, movement sensors and smart lighting.
According to a government press release, Council and the Sunshine Coast are leading Australia in efficient waste collection. Council is installing Australia’s first underground automated waste collection system (AWCS) in the new Maroochydore City Centre.
High-tech underground pipes will transport waste out of the city centre. Waste will travel at up to 70km/h through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes removing waste from:
- residential apartments
- commercial buildings
- public places
The AWCS is a more efficient alternative to conventional above-ground waste collection. The system will help create a cleaner, healthier and more attractive city centre. Recycling rates are also expected to improve.
The use of the AWCS will result in a significant reduction in the number of large vehicles needing to access the city centre. This will provide a safer and more pleasant urban environment. It will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with this essential service. The elimination of early morning garbage collection also creates better urban living conditions.
The AWCS flier notes that the Sunshine Coast aims to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative. They are taking a nation-leading position by installing this high-tech, underground AWCS in the new Maroochydore City Centre, and are committed to ensuring 21st-century technology and innovation are key characteristics of this greenfield site.
This innovative waste management system is the first of its kind in Australia with many benefits including:
- Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of waste bins or be woken early by noisy garbage collection vehicles
- No front, rear or side lift waste collection vehicles
- No kerbside waste and recycling collection
- No overflowing public place bins
- Underground collection means no impact on street traffic
- Improved resident and visitor safety and amenity
- Improved local air quality by eliminating conventional waste collection services.
The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, accelerating the digital transformation plans of both governments and private organisations. As the world enters what will hopefully be the home stretch of the pandemic battle – the vaccination stage – both sectors are still looking for ways to efficiently deliver and implement their programmes.
OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively with Dr Steve Bennett. With deep experience in biosurveillance gained from the various leadership roles during his 12 years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Steve was able to share rare perspectives in managing disruptions on a global scale such as COVID-19.
He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the hat he current wears as Director, Global Government Practice, SAS. A global leader in analytics for organisations seeking immediate value from their data, SAS has a deep toolbox of analytics solutions and broad industry knowledge. Through SAS’ offerings, organisations gain actionable insights from their data and make sense of it all. Identify what is working and fix what is not, make more intelligent decisions, and drive relevant change.
Steve acknowledged that they have known for a long time that the world was susceptible to a pandemic be it in any form. He said that when the news came from China, the first global news in pro-med, they hoped that it would be contained, but, alas, that was not to be.
For SAS as an organisation, the urgent focus was on safety and continuity of operations. Their initial thought went to what the negative effects of the pandemic would be on their global team. A multinational company with 14,000 engaged across the globe, there were incredible ramifications for employees and other staff.
At the same time that continuity of operations was being managed, SAS was working hard to find ways to get in the fight against COVID-19 and help. Initially, the company’s efforts and ideas, while valuable, were uncoordinated. For Steve, with his experience in dealing with disruptive events, he was able to bring rationale and calmness to the situation. Familiar with a way to manage such scenarios – the Incident Command System (ICS) – he proposed its deployment within SAS. It can orient and deliver information in an efficient manner that cuts through bureaucracy and red tape. This system is globally recognised and is widely used by governments as they manage natural disasters, as well as many industries.
The ICS was SAS’s initial answer to the pandemic, and for them, it changed the way they function and to further adapt to the new normal. After the recommendation, Steve found himself leading SAS’s global response. He spearheaded the development of a system that could cater to the needs of the healthcare sector and government as it rallied to meet the pandemic head-on. With the intention of getting software and tools into the hands of people on the front line that needed it as quickly as possible, the team had to work overtime.
Steve highlighted critical areas where SAS could make a significant difference amid the crisis. Optimising the use of medical resources, dashboard and data visualisation and helping governments distribute benefits. Intentionally, they focused on a handful of things to develop the right applications to support these areas efficiently rather than tackling hundreds of use-cases.
The development of systems to manage limited medical resources, such as ICU beds and ventilators for several countries, proved to be vital. Added to this were their data visualisation and situational awareness programmes. These solutions helped bring a snapshot perspective for governments trying to determine their stock of masks for distribution, available beds, ventilators to deploy, etc. SAS’ simple data dashboards helped connect such critical information, for the first time, in an easy-to-view map. It worked wonders for senior government leaders, allowing them to see all the relevant data in one place; and that led to making better, data-driven, informed decisions.
Beyond a doubt, Steve feels, the real challenge for governments is that their data is spread across multiple channels which is compounded by a lack of process (or desire) for integration. This deadly combination hinders the process.
Public sector agencies should welcome the idea of utilising a system that would take all that disorganisation, duplicity and disinclination and make it work together in one platform. The idea of shared value goes a long way, not only for its citizens but also for the agency – those who recognise that that the visualisation of data will enable them to function better.
Big advocates for using data analytics to aid government benefits programmes, Steve confirmed that they championed a process called “Saving Lives and Livelihoods”. While they wanted to cater to the health sector, they also wanted to incorporate data analytics to protect precious resources.
The company helped governments to distribute benefits – quickly and effectively – prioritising needs. Their solutions helped agencies differentiate between those who needed the benefits immediately and were qualified and those who were not. This not only allowed for significant savings but provided efficient triaging – saving lives and livelihoods.
Steve touched on the role that AI plays in all these initiatives and conceded that artificial intelligence is an essential part of all of their platforms and solutions. Not merely in managing the current pandemic but efforts are underway to leverage AI and machine learning to detect and prevent the next one.
The accepted theory for how the COVID-19 pandemic originated is the close contact between people and animals in a particular environment. Fed with the right data and appropriate parameters, AI can be used to predict hotspots in the world which could be the source of the next pandemic. While it may not prevent one, it can provide lead time to pre-deploy health resources in places where a contagion could break out.
Essentially for SAS, AI can aid pandemic prevention and early detection efforts. The key in this high-stakes situation is all about being early – Steve talked about examples from his time in government in which AI and machine learning helped detect very faint signals and trends in the data much earlier than the post-facto, large signal from hospitals three weeks later when everybody is showing up sick.
As vaccination programmes are being rolled out across the world, the pandemic seems to be on its tail-end. However, the implementation of a vaccine rollout is “the greatest logistics mobilisation since World War II and (we are) trying to move things on an unprecedented scale”.
For SAS, their contribution to these initiatives is developing tools that optimise the roll-out of limited vaccines, that manage logistics and supply chain and programmes on data analytics that will drive better decisions on how to roll out the vaccine in a secured manner.
Steve recommends governments augment their large amounts of internal data with non-traditional data sources like telecommunications and consumer data, (while at the same time valuing privacy), to understand what populations are at risk. SAS empowers the government with the data sources and links that data together for them. They also advise governments to offer citizens easy to use options for vaccination registration.
Steve and SAS are optimistic about the future as vaccine rollouts are commencing worldwide. While it may take longer than everyone would like, they believe that countries can turn the tide in their favour sooner than later. Steve mentioned that preliminary modelling for COVID-19 seems to indicated that about 50%-80% of the population need vaccination to achieve “herd immunity,” where the spread of the infection beings to plummet. At the same time, there are concerns that COVID-19 might turn into something like the seasonal flu where people must get shots all year round and live with it.
In the end, Steve believes that everyone should be ready for the next outbreak. Governments and organisations must learn lessons on the development of vaccines and solutions for viruses using various technologies available.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted lives across the world and will continue to do so for a considerable time to come. Multiple waves of the infections, new lockdown and fresh mitigation measures seem to be the order of the day. In this context, it is important to try and get a semblance of normalcy where possible. One way forward is digitally enabled solutions.
OpenGov Asia and SAS have partnered to create content-rich and engaging online interactive and engaging virtual events across ASEAN via OpenGovLive! – OpenGov Asia’s in-house, dedicated platform. Aimed at providing senior digital executives access to cutting-edge technology and solutions, the sessions are invitation-only.
Details of the various events can be found below:
- Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021Virtual Edition on April 8th and 9th 2021
- Accelerating Digital Transformation and Innovation: Helping Government in Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience on April 15th and 16th 2021
- Leveraging Technology for Effective and Efficient Vaccine Distribution, Administration and Management on May 6th 2021
- Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on May 19th and 20th 2021
- Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on June 16th and 17th 2021
Vietnam’s National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) has operationalised its first digital transformer station in Thuy Nguyen district, the northern port city of Hai Phong, earlier this week. The 210kV station was built at a total cost of around VND348 billion (US$15 million) on an area of 40,100 square metres spanning the Dong Son and Kenh Giang communes.
According to EVNNPT Deputy General Director Luu Viet Tien, the station helped cut around 80% of the amount of copper cable, slash copper cable transport and installation costs, and reduce the risks of incidents caused by cable damage. The system will use artificial intelligence (AI) in monitoring and examining and make use of cameras and smart drones to repair lines.
He said the 220KV digital station will a ensure stable power supply for socio-economic development in Thuy Nguyen and regions in the vicinity, reduce power loss, and enhance connectivity, safety, stability, and flexibility in the operation of power systems.
EVNNPT will evaluate the efficiency of the station to select suitable technologies for transformer stations in the future. The Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) plans to have all equipment on transmission lines and 80% of 110 kV circuit facilities digitalised from now to 2022.
By 2025, EVNNPT will have digitalised 100% of facilities on medium and higher-voltage power lines, according to EVNNPT Chairman Duong Quang Thanh. To that end, the group will continue to integrate other digital technologies like the Internet of Things, big data, and cloud computing.
It will continue research on building information models and digital worker platforms to serve its staff while developing AI applications for image analysis and data governance. EVNNPT said it has completed 61 of the 63 centres for the remote control of transformer stations and converted 670 of the 844 transformer stations into unmanned ones.
Tien said that the digital transformer station is a new technology in both Vietnam and many other countries in the world. He added that before the station was constructed, EVNNPT held several conferences with large equipment suppliers such as Siemens, ABB, and GE.
Recently the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, claimed that digital transformation and innovation will turn Vietnam into a developed country by 2045. He said that innovation always has to start with awareness and thinking and has to be seen from different perspectives. Old infrastructure, old ways of doing things, old knowledge, old products, old business models are no longer suitable. The country needs new infrastructure, new ways of doing things, new knowledge, new products, new business models.
That is why many people say that digital transformation is more of a policy revolution than a technology revolution. Adopting new business models, new technologies that fundamentally change industries. “If we are open to accepting the new, then the new technology of the world will come, talent from all over the world will come, a new industry will emerge and the cradle of Vietnam will create exportable digital technology products,” he noted.
The New Zealand Growth Capital Partners’ (NZGCP) Elevate New Zealand Venture Fund is committing NZ$14 million (US$10 million) into the Finistere Aotearoa Fund, which will target agri-food technology companies needing Series A and B investment. The fund will match Elevate’s commitment at least dollar-to-dollar with private capital. At first close at least US$28 million will be available to invest into agri-tech investments in New Zealand-connected entities.
According to a news report, the Finistere Aotearoa Fund will focus on commercialising New Zealand’s robust technology and intellectual property pipeline. The Fund is a subsidiary of Silicon Valley venture capital fund managers Finistere Ventures.
The Economic and Regional Development Minister, Stuart Nash, welcomed the new Elevate commitment. “The government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan was launched last year. In that, we highlighted that investment was a key constraint for the sector, so we welcome the creation of this specialist fund and look forward to its productive contribution to New Zealand’s transformation.”
The New Zealand government’s investment and commitment to a zero-emissions national agriculture strategy has turned the country into a centre for agricultural excellence, according to Arama Kukutai, co-founder and partner of Finistere Ventures. The New Zealand operation will be managed by long-time investment manager Dean Tilyard and based in Palmerston North. Finistere Ventures has a global agri-tech focus with offices in the United States, Ireland, and Israel.
New Zealand has become a world leader in agricultural research and innovation focused on curtailing the environmental impact of agriculture. “Having a strong local presence in Aotearoa has long been on our agenda. We are excited to partner with NZGCP to support the global commercialisation of New Zealand’s most promising agri-food technology advancements,” Kukutai stated.
NZGCP was established by the New Zealand government. As per its website, NZGCP aims to stimulate a well-functioning capital market for early-stage technology companies. Its investment vehicles are designed to stimulate private investment into this space through fund of funds and co-investment models.
Finistere Ventures is aiming for a final close of NZ$42 million (approximately US$30 million), which if achieved would see Elevate’s contribution rise to NZ$21 million (US$15 million). James Pinner, the investment director of Elevate, said, “Finistere and Dean Tilyard established Sprout, a Callaghan tech incubator based in Palmerston North with a strong agri-tech focus, and the fund has a number of existing New Zealand investments including BioLumic, Invert Robotics, and CropX – all three have also been supported by NZGCP via our Aspire fund.”
The Aspire Fund is one of two NZGCP investment vehicles created to promote private investment. The Aspire Fund does this through partnering with other private investors to make direct investments into early-stage (proof of concept and seed stage) companies. The Elevate Fund does this through using best practice fund of funds management to invest into venture capital firms looking to fund New Zealand companies at the Series A and B stages.
The group is also involved in a range of market development initiatives alongside investors, New Zealand Private Capital, and the Angel Association of New Zealand. It has a market development mandate and seeks to partner and collaborate with a wide range of government bodies and private investors. It intends to help develop the early-stage New Zealand investment market and ultimately help early-stage New Zealand companies grow.
University of Queensland scientists have published the clinical trial data confirming their molecular clamp-stabilised vaccine technology was safe and potentially effective. The vaccine candidate developed by the team last year did not progress through to Phase 2/3 clinical trials, due to cross-reactivity caused by the protein fragment used to stabilise the clamp design.
Initial data from the clinical trial conducted in Brisbane was initially released last December and has now been published following peer review in the prestigious Lancet Infectious Diseases. Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell said 99% of vaccinated participants in the study produced a neutralising immune response.
“In 75 per cent of vaccine recipients it was above the average in recovered patients, and in 38 per cent it was more than twice the average for recovered patients,” he said. “Adverse events were comparable to those in the saline placebo, with the only exceptions being mild injection site pain and tenderness.”
Project Director Professor Trent Munro said the paper also discussed the cross-reactivity in HIV diagnostics that led to the decision not to proceed into later-stage clinical studies. “The design of the original molecular clamp excluded known antibody binding sites to reduce the potential, but unfortunately the antibodies registered a low response on some highly sensitive HIV tests.”
Project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the 2020 vaccine candidate was not an option for Australia’s current vaccine rollout. “The team understood the decision in December to shift the focus to other candidates that were showing promise. Some of these vaccines are now in the market and need to remain the immediate priority.”
It was noted that the study has strongly validated the Molecular Clamp technology as a promising rapid response strategy for vaccine development. “The team is continuing to work on alternative clamp constructs that could be used to respond to COVID-19 in the future or other viral diseases.”
The data published relates to the clinical trial involving 120 participants aged 18 to 55, 96 of which received the vaccine candidate. Collaborators on the clinical trial included CSL/Seqirus, Australian National University, Doherty Institute, CSIRO, Patheon, Cytiva and Nucleus Network.
In addition, to support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Queensland Government provided $10 million Advance Queensland funding for the vaccine project last year, the Federal Government contributed $5 million and more than $10 million was provided by philanthropic and other donors.
The research is published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.
What is clamp-stabilised vaccine technology?
A molecular clamp is a polypeptide used to maintain the shape of proteins in some experimental vaccines. On a virus, pre-fusion proteins on their surface provide an attractive target for an immune reaction. However, if these proteins are removed or made by recombinant technology, they lose their shape and form what is called a “post-fusion form”.
When part of a virus, these proteins maintain their form by forming a quaternary structure with other viral proteins. The pre-fusion state of the protein is a higher energy metastable state. The extra energy is used to overcome the activation barrier of the fusion to the cell membrane. The virus protein (or part of it) in combination with the clamp polypeptide is called a chimeric polypeptide.
The clamp is made from amino acid residues in a pattern that repeats after every seven residues and must be at least 14 residues in length. The clamp self-assembles into a twin helix with one strand going forward and the other in reverse.
The pairing of the amino acids in the strands is ensured by a pattern of hydrophobic and hydrophilic amino acids. The pattern is arranged so that none of the clamps will bind to the protein from the virus. The clamp self-assembles into a stiff rod. The clamp is linked to the desired part of the virus protein by a linker. The linker may serve other functions, such as allowing the chimeric protein to be purified from a mixture.