Researchers discover antibody that prevents SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells

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Building on previous work investigating antibodies that target SARS, researchers at Utrecht University (Netherlands), Erasmus Medical Center and Harbour BioMed (both Rotterdam, Netherlands) have identified a fully human monoclonal antibody capable of preventing SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cultured cells. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, could pave the way to the development of a fully human antibody to treat or prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly across the globe, and targeted therapeutics for the treatment of this disease are currently lacking.

The team conducting this study had previously carried out research investigating antibodies that target SARS-CoV, the coronavirus 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,” commented Berend-Jan Bosch (Utrecht University), co-lead author of the study. “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 monoclonal antibody binds to a domain that is present in both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, allowing it to neutralize both viruses.

“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.”

Further, this antibody is ‘fully human.’ Conventional therapeutic antibodies are typically developed in other species before undergoing additional work to ‘humanize’ them, however the nature of this antibody, which was generated using transgenic mouse technology, allows it to be developed more rapidly and reduces the potential for immune-related side effects.

“This is groundbreaking research,” commented Jingsong Wang (Harbour BioMed). “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.”

Sources: Wang C, Li W, Drabek D et al. A human monoclonal antibody blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat. Commun. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-16256-y (2020); www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-05/uu-rrd050120.php

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