Researchers report discovery of antibody that blocks infection by the SARS-CoV-2 in cells

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Researchers at Utrecht University, Erasmus Medical Centre and Harbour BioMed (HBM) have reported that they have identified a fully human monoclonal antibody that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus from infecting cultured cells. The discovery is an initial step towards developing a fully human antibody to treat or prevent the respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly across the globe infecting more than 3.3m people worldwide and killing more than 235,000 people so far.

"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 Berend-Jan Bosch, associate professor, research leader at Utrecht University, and co-lead author of the study. "Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralises infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells. Such a neutralising 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."

Bosch noted that the antibody binds to a domain that is conserved in both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, explaining its ability to neutralise both viruses. "This cross-neutralising feature of the antibody is very interesting and suggests it may have potential in mitigation of diseases caused by future-emerging related coronaviruses."

"This discovery provides a strong foundation for additional research to characterize this antibody and begin development as a potential COVID-19 treatment," said Dr Frank Grosveld, co-lead author on the study, academy professor of cell biology, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam and founding chief scientific officer at Harbour BioMed. "The antibody used in this work is 'fully human,' allowing development to proceed more rapidly and reducing the potential for immune-related side effects." Conventional therapeutic antibodies are first developed in other species and then must undergo additional work to 'humanise' them. The antibody was generated using Harbour BioMed's H2L2 transgenic mouse technology.

"This is ground-breaking research," said Dr Jingsong Wang, founder, chair and 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."

The emergence of the novel human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China has caused a worldwide epidemic of respiratory disease (COVID-19). Vaccines and targeted therapeutics for treatment of this disease are currently lacking. Here we report a human monoclonal antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 (and SARS-CoV) in cell culture. This cross-neutralizing antibody targets a communal epitope on these viruses and may offer potential for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Chunyan Wang, Wentao Li, Dubravka Drabek, Nisreen MA Okba, Rien van Haperen, Albert DME Osterhaus, Frank JM van Kuppeveld, Bart L Haagmans, Frank Grosveld, Berend-Jan Bosch

The Israeli government's research institute has isolated a key coronavirus antibody that could lead to a possible coronavirus treatment, reports Business Insider. In a joint statement with the Israel Institute for Biological Research, Israeli defence minister Naftali Bennet said the agency briefed him with its "significant breakthrough".

The report says the institute has isolated a "monoclonal" antibody that can "neutralise (disease) inside carriers' bodies."

Professor Shmuel Shapiro, the institute's director, said the antibody is being patented, and the next phase of research includes contacting international manufacturers to mass-produce the formula for commercial use.

The report says according to the World Health Organisation, data suggests no more than 2% to 3% of the population have the antibodies to show they were infected by the coronavirus. However, there has still been no definitive study showing that having antibodies means people are immune from getting infected with the coronavirus, and there have been some reports of potential reinfection.

So far, researchers also do not know how long any antibody protection can last for this coronavirus.

Nature material

Nature Communications abstract

Full Business Insider report

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