London: Researchers have identified a fully human monoclonal antibody that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus from infecting cultured cells.
The discovery, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, 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 3.3 million people worldwide and killing more than 235,000 people so far.
This research from Utrecht University, Erasmus Medical Center and Harbour BioMed (HBM) builds on the work they have done in the past on antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV that emerged in 2002/2003.
“Using this collection of SARS-CoV antibodies, we identified an antibody that also neutralizes infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells,” said study co-lead author Berend-Jan Bosch, Associate Professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“Such a neutralising antibody has the 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 added.
The researchers noted that the antibody binds to a domain that is conserved in both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, explaining its ability to neutralize 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, Bosch said.
This discovery provides a strong foundation for additional research to characterise this antibody and begins development as a potential COVID-19 treatment.
“The antibody used in this work is ‘fully human,’ allowing development to proceed more rapidly and reducing the potential for immune-related side effects,” said study co-author Frank Grosveld.
Conventional therapeutic antibodies are first developed in other species and then must undergo additional work to ‘humanize’ them, according to the researchers.
The antibody was generated using Harbour BioMed’s H2L2 transgenic mouse technology.
“This is groundbreaking research. Much more work is needed to assess whether this antibody can protect or reduce the severity of disease in humans,” said Dr Jingsong Wang, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Harbour BioMed.
“We expect to advance the 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,” Wang noted.