Human Monoclonal Antibody Breakthroughs Provide New Hope against COVID-19
By T. Chakraborty, Ph.D.
Two independent studies conducted in the Netherlands and Israel report the discovery of COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies. This could very well be the breakthroughs we all were waiting for.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the whole world to a standstill affecting global health and economy. At the time of writing, 3.7 million people worldwide have been infected with more than 257,000 deaths. Around 1.2 million cases have been identified in the United States alone. With the improvement in testing capacity, the numbers are expected to climb every passing day.
Monoclonal Antibodies as COVID-19 Treatment
Numerous researchers are fighting against time to come up with an effective cure to the illness. Although Gilead’s remdesivir was given emergency approval for treating patients with severe COVID-19, some experts opine that its efficacy is only moderate at best. A potent vaccine or a neutralizing human monoclonal antibody against the viral surface protein would be a much better bet. Currently, there are eight vaccine candidates in trials and 100 more in preclinical evaluation. Attempts are also made by several companies such as Vir Biotechnology to identify potent COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies from patients who recovered from the infection.
New Research from Dutch Scientists
At this juncture, a new study conducted by Dr. Berend-Jan Bosch and colleagues from Utrecht University in the Netherlands has identified a human monoclonal antibody that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture. The results were published in the Nature Communications journal on May 4. This study is a follow up of the group’s previous work on the identification of antibody therapy against SARS-CoV which broke out in the early 2000s.
The SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies were isolated by using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) reactivity from antibody-containing supernatants from 51 SARS-S hybridoma cell lines with chimeric humanized immunoglobulins. Out of the four chimeric antibodies that showed positive results, the recombinantly expressed human 47D11 was used for the study. This antibody can bind to cells expressing full-length spike (S) proteins of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. Further, the authors demonstrated that this antibody neutralizes the virus by binding to S1B receptor-binding domain (RBD). Interestingly, this neutralization is consistent between both the viruses.
“This research builds on the work our groups have done in the past on antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV that emerged in 2002/2003,” said Dr. Bosch, Associate Professor, Research leader at Utrecht University. “Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralizes infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells. Such a neutralizing antibody has potential to alter the course of infection in the infected host, support virus clearance or protect an uninfected individual that is exposed to the virus.”
“This cross-neutralizing feature of the antibody is very interesting and suggests it may have potential in mitigation of diseases caused by future-emerging related coronaviruses.” he added.
“This is groundbreaking research,” said Dr. Jingsong Wang, Founder, Chairman & CEO of HBM. “Much more work is needed to assess whether this antibody can protect or reduce the severity of disease in humans. We expect to advance development of the antibody with partners. We believe our technology can contribute to addressing this most urgent public health need and we are pursuing several other research avenues.”
Independent Study from Israel
Similarly, in an official press release, Israeli Defence Minister, Naftali Bennett claimed that Israel has made a “significant breakthrough” in identifying a neutralizing human monoclonal antibody against COVID-19. According to the Reuters news agency, the state-run Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has created the antibodies, and the statement quoted IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira in saying that an international manufacturer would be approached to mass-produce these antibodies once the formula completes the patenting process.
Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.
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