Harris-Stowe State University, United Health Foundation | November 20, 2021
The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), has awarded a $2 million, three-year grant to Harris-Stowe State University to create a bioinformatics program for undergraduate students at the historically Black university located in St. Louis. Bioinformatics is an emerging field that combines science, physics, math and biology to aid in the diagnosis, treatment and discovery of new therapeutic advancements. An example of bioinformatics is the use of computer analysis on the Human Genome Project, which has recorded the 3 billion basic pairs of the human DNA system.
HSSU will develop a new undergraduate program to train students for careers as bioinformatics professionals. HSSU will use the support to
Develop new curricula combining coursework and experiential learning opportunities.
Expose high school students in surrounding school districts to the field of bioinformatics through a summer bioinformatics “boot camp” program.
Offer academic scholarships for up to 25 students each year.
“In the past decade, Harris-Stowe State University has emerged as a leader in training students for high-tech careers. This new program will help us to build on that important work, as well as continue to fulfill our mission of serving historically underrepresented students. Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field of study, and it is vital for all people to play a role in its advancement.”
Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, interim president of HSSU
Studies have shown that there is a substantial gap in the number of diverse college students trained in biomedical sciences. Black, Hispanic and Native American people account for only 7.1% of the employed biological/biomedical and life sciences workforce, according to the National Science Foundation. A diverse health workforce helps provide personalized, culturally competent care to an increasingly diverse population.
“The United Health Foundation is honored to collaborate with Harris-Stowe State University to increase the diversity of the life sciences workforce. We are excited about HSSU training students who will make discoveries, develop therapies and advance health care for all,” said Patrick Quinn, CEO of UnitedHealthcare in Missouri, a UnitedHealth Group company. “This partnership illustrates UnitedHealth Group’s commitment to health equity and to building a diverse health workforce reflective of our society.”
The commitment in Missouri is one of many ways UnitedHealth Group is working to advance health equity by diversifying the health workforce of the future. The United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, for example, partners with nine nonprofit and civic organizations and has provided over 3,000 scholarships to diverse students studying medicine and public health across the U.S. since 2007. Optum Technology, part of Optum which is a UnitedHealth Group company, offers a mentor-led STEM program that has provided science, technology, engineering and mathematics training to over 7,000 diverse and underrepresented students at 103 middle and high schools since 2019. To learn more about the company’s commitment to health equity as well as its efforts to build healthier communities, improve outcomes and create a modern, high-performing health care system.
About Harris-Stowe State University
For over 160 years, Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) has served the historically underrepresented. As a Historically Black College and University, HSSU is strongly committed to providing a high-quality higher education experience that is both affordable and accessible to the diverse populations within and beyond the metropolitan St. Louis region. More than 90% of student population are racially and ethnically diverse and receive some form of financial aid.
About the United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners, grants and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and enhance the well-being of local communities. The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed more than $500 million to programs and communities around the world.
COVIDAX | September 19, 2020
AXON Neuroscience ("Axon"), a clinical-stage biotech company and an industry leader in treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases with a unique peptide vaccine platform, is launching the world's first independently-developed crowdfunded vaccine against COVID-19 – ACvac1. With more than 20 years of experience developing an exceptionally safe and immunogenic peptide vaccine against dementia, in April 2020 Axon announced its plan to develop a novel peptide vaccine against COVID-19. Axon's scientists identified the weakest points of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and used them to design the vaccine. ACvac1 induced extensive antibody production in vaccinated mice, effectively blocking the live virus from replicating and confirming the soundness of Axon's approach. Axon plans to begin first-in-human trials as early as the fourth quarter of 2020. Based on these encouraging vaccine efficacy results, Axon has decided to open the project to individuals and small investors who will be able to invest directly from the project's website.
Ginkgo Bioworks | September 07, 2021
Tantu, a company engineering living biotherapeutic products to treat gastrointestinal diseases, and Ginkgo Bioworks, which is building the leading horizontal platform for cell programming, today announced a partnership to accelerate the research and development of Tantu's therapeutic genes. Ginkgo, which recently announced a business combination with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp., serves customers across industries seeking to develop new and better products using biology.
Tantu is working to create an orally administered, living biotherapeutic that will produce and apply anti-inflammatory therapeutic proteins directly into diseased sites in the gut, resulting in improved gut barrier function and faster mucosal healing in patients where systemic anti-inflammatory therapies are not enough. Ginkgo plans to apply its automated foundry to accelerate the traditionally slow steps of candidate strain construction and genomic integration and validation with the aim of accelerating Tantu's first program and potentially helping them reach clinical proof of concept in patients faster.
"Each year, 62 million Americans are diagnosed with a digestive disorder and current treatments don't sufficiently promote gastrointestinal healing, meaning many patients need to undergo invasive surgeries to improve their quality of life," said Neel Joshi, co-founder of Tantu. "A therapeutic to aid intestinal mucosal healing could transform patient care for a significant patient population."
"We are excited to partner with a pre-seed company like Tantu with the goal of reducing their time-to-market because we view it as an opportunity to invest in the biotech industry through the startups that are driving forward so much innovation," said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks. "Working with Tantu provides Ginkgo with the opportunity to leverage its expertise in pharmaceuticals to support the development of a potentially transformative therapeutic for the millions struggling with digestive disorders."
Companies across numerous industries use Ginkgo's cell programming platform to find more effective, environmentally friendly ways to create products including food ingredients, fragrances, cosmetics, medicines, and more. By enabling the design of organisms that can produce valuable biological products, Ginkgo helps accelerate the development of innovative, bio-based solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.
About Tantu Therapeutics
Tantu is developing living biotherapeutic products to treat gastrointestinal diseases. Its lead therapeutic candidate is an engineered microbe that produces anti-inflammatory and healing agents from inside the gut lumen – something that no clinically approved therapeutic currently does. Tantu's local delivery strategy is designed to improve patient outcomes by reducing reliance solely on systemic anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. Tantu's living biotherapeutic products are being designed to complement proven approaches to further improve patients' health and quality of life.
About Ginkgo Bioworks
Ginkgo is building a platform to enable customers to program cells as easily as we can program computers. The company's platform is enabling biotechnology applications across diverse markets, from food and agriculture to industrial chemicals to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo has also actively supported a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including K-12 pooled testing, vaccine manufacturing optimization and therapeutics discovery. In May 2021, Ginkgo announced a business combination with Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: SRNG), which, if completed, will result in Ginkgo, through a parent entity, Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings, Inc., becoming a public company. The extraordinary general meeting of Soaring Eagle's shareholders in connection with the transaction has been scheduled for September 14, 2021 and the transaction is expected to close shortly thereafter, subject to customary closing conditions.