Home >Science >Health >Scientists in Israel develop antibody to battle covid-19

With researchers the world over racing against time to develop a treatment for covid-19, Israel on Monday said that scientists at the Israel Institute of Biological Research have successfully developed a monoclonal antibody that has the potential to “neutralize" the SARS-CoV2 virus.

In a statement, Israel’s defence ministry said that the country’s premier biological laboratory has completed the development phase of the covid-19 antibody. However, it did not share any scientific literature on the subject or information on an extensive evaluation in the laboratory.

“I’m proud of the Biological Institute staff who have made a major breakthrough," said defence minister Naftali Bennett, adding that the “antibody can neutralize the virus within the bodies of those ill".

The team is now looking to apply for a patent and secure a commercial contract with an international manufacturer for mass production. But this can only be done after obtaining requisite approvals from regulatory agencies for therapeutic use in patients after sharing results of human clinical trials.

The announcement came hours after a group from the Netherlands reported that they have identified monoclonal antibody (mAbs), which could neutralize SARS-CoV2. The scientists found that one antibody (47D11) showed neutralizing activity for both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, and also demonstrated it in a cell-culture.

“The 47D11, either alone or in combination with other neutralizing antibodies could potentially aid the development of therapeutic strategies in the future. But further studies are needed to explore whether these findings could potentially be translated to the clinic," said the Netherlands team, which was the first to publish its findings in the peer-reviewed science journal Nature Communications.

Antibodies are proteins that are naturally released by the immune system to fight a pathogen—in this case, the SARS-CoV2 virus. Monoclonal antibodies have more potential, as they are derived from a single recovered cell and have a targeted response.

Monoclonal antibodies are being increasingly considered as a promising class of therapeutics for infectious diseases—either alone or in combination with other therapies—to neutralize the virus in the body.

In case of covid-19, it does so by targeting the specific spike proteins on the surface of the virus, which facilitates the entry into host cells.

“It is a natural extension of convalescent plasma therapy, which has shown promising results so far. The basic principle is to give antibodies passively to patients. The method of developing those antibodies and giving to the patient may vary, but it might work in both the cases. Also it is safer," said noted virologist Dr T. Jacob John, former head, department of virology, Christian Medical College, Vellore.

If it shows efficacy in laboratory testing and can successfully neutralize the virus, it can be manufactured to replace the convalescent plasma therapy. Since it’s a human product, it can directly be made available for human use, as it is safer and may not require randomized controlled trials, said scientists.

Several research groups across the world have been working on isolating and developing antibody-based approaches to treat covid-19 patients.

Normally, scientists develop monoclonal antibodies by using mouse cells in culture and then ‘humanize’ them by using human-hybrid cells in the cell-culture. The Israeli team had been working on antibody-based vaccine prototypes on rodents, even before it reported its first covid-19 case in February.

Unlike a vaccine, which protects a person from future infection, this therapy helps in treating infected patients by providing passive immunization.

Apart from therapeutics, such monoclonal antibodies could also be useful for antigen-detection tests and serological assays targeting the virus to help in diagnostics.

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