Scientists find Sars-Cov-2 neutralizing antibodies

Wei Li Ph.D. of Pitt demonstrates a step in the process of obtaining a potential drug against COVID-19. Credit UPMC

The most important thing is that it doesn't cause any negative side effects in humans as it won't bind to human cells.

They said their potential treatment, called Ab8, is different than a vaccine, in that a vaccine triggers creation of antibodies which ward off a disease. The drug is seen as a potential preventative against SARS-CoV-2. The size also helps in administering the drug by alternative routes, such as inhalation.

The antibody component is the variable, heavy chain (VH) domain of an immunoglobulin. According to Dimitrov, he and his team set out to isolate the gene for one or more antibodies that prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in order to be able to mass-produce a therapeutic antibody which could overcome some of the limitations associated with convalescent plasma therapy. REGN-COV2 is now being studied in two Phase 2/3 clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 and in a Phase 3 trial for the prevention of COVID-19 in household contacts of infected individuals. "Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with the disease and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune".

The research is done in conjunction with scientists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). In the ensuing years, his team discovered potent antibodies against many other infectious diseases, including those caused by MERS-CoV, dengue, Hendra and Nipah viruses. It is especially small - about 10 times smaller than a full antibody - which means it can penetrate into areas of the body where a full-sized antibody may not.

When the VH component of an antibody fuses with the tail region of the immunoglobulin, the drug Ab8 produced. The isolated part is found useful in constructing a drug Ab8 to treat the affected patients.

Ab8 also showed prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamsters, as evaluated by Darryl Falzarano, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan. In mice trials, those treated with Ab8 had 10-fold less of the amount of infectious virus compared to those that were untreated.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia uncovered the unique way Ab8 neutralizes the virus so effectively by using sophisticated electron microscopic techniques.

While scientists around the world are trying their hands in creating the best vaccine to prevent the deadly disease, this new discovery of the antibody that can help in blocking COVID-19 virus looks promising.

Development of the antibody began in February at Pitt's Center for Antibody Therapeutics, Mellors said, "before covid-19 was a household name".

Funds for the research comes from the National Institutes of Health grants, and UPMC, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.