2022-08-16| COVID-19R&D

Antibody Treatment for Multiple Varieties of CoronaVirus

by Eduardo Longoria
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To respond to Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), researchers are endeavoring to produce MHRA Grants Moderna’s Omicron Bivalent Vaccine Conditional Approval in UKs that can keep their efficacy against the rapidly evolving genome of this virus. The Coronavirus category has produced 3 viruses responsible for mass death in the past 20 years and is part of a general pattern of the dangers of beta-coronaviruses. While vaccines have been produced for this latest variety of coronavirus, they are still not suited for all strains and create logistical problems in maintaining herd immunity.

Related article: European Commision Purchases an additional 15 million Moderna Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccines

Common Strand Between Viral Strains

To address the problems of the rapid evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers are making use of monoclonal antibodies and the aid of convalescent COVID-19 patients. Great strides toward a solution were made by the researchers behind the paper “Potent universal-coronavirus therapeutic activity mediated by direct respiratory administration of a Spike S2 domain-specific human neutralizing monoclonal antibody” by Michael S. Piepenbrink and Jun-Gyu Park. 

Coming out in June of 2022, this research paper was backed by the University of Alabama and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. These institutes, both in the US south, a region heavily hit by the effects of COVID-19, place them in an excellent position to do some good.  

The goal is to create a measure that can address patient infections and lower the damage caused by new viral strains. To achieve this, researchers need to find a common protein amongst all strains of the Corona virus that an antibody can work against. This was achieved by screening blood plasma of convalescent subjects for IgG against a spike S2 domain. This domain is conserved throughout human beta coronaviruses, and so was a candidate for study by the researchers. This screening allowed for several S2-specific human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs) to be developed that could neutralize SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies were able to recognize all variants of concern tested (Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Omicron), with hmAb 1249A8 emerging as the most potent and broad of them all.

Memory B cells in the blood that bound to custom S2 protein baits were developed to mimic the natural state of the S2 domain of the spike and were used to create a panel of unique cells able to produce human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs). When tested in mice, the hmAbs protected them from SARS-CoV-2 illness, as measured by maintenance of body weight and clearance of virus from mouse lungs four days after infection.

Value Add Over Viral Vaccines

The use of monoclonal antibodies has a handful of advantages. In addition to being able to treat all strains of SARS-CoV-2, the monoclonal antibodies are able to treat related viruses like MERS and offer an option to people who cannot get vaccinated. These monoclonal antibodies can also be dry stored for years after production, while many vaccines are unable to be safely stored for longer than a month. 

67% of all Americans are fully vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2, which unfortunately leaves 33% (109 million) Americans not. This doesn’t even account for the even smaller number of Americans who have gotten their booster shots. Such a gap in protection and society being nowhere near herd immunity makes those unable to get vaccinated even more vulnerable and so leaves an excellent niche for the use of monoclonal antibodies. Because the antibodies are able to treat a person post-infection, they are able to be the pound of cure that comes when an ounce of prevention is not enough. This pound of cure is currently licensed to Aridis Pharmaceuticals based out of California and is expected to contribute to the future biosecurity of the United States. 

The efforts of these researchers and the institutions behind them have made protecting a large number of people much easier and less expensive for small health systems. To supplement the logistical and social burden of ensuring the population is up to date on vaccines, patients can receive treatment after infection. Having a singular treatment that can address the problems of COVID-19 will save lives by filling the gaps in the health system and in patient responsibility. 

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