An antibody therapy neutralizes all known SARS-CoV-2 strains and other coronaviruses.
After more than a year of uneasiness and sadness brought on by COVID-19, lifesaving COVID-19 Antibody Discovery shows that vaccines allow us to feel hopeful again. Vaccines, however, are only one side of the equation; we also need treatment options to avoid serious diseases once someone has been afflicted.
There has been substantial progress in creating effective antibody-based medicines in the last year, and three drugs are now available through the health organization, Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization (EUA).
With a little help from structural scientist Jay Nix, the leader of Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biology Consortium, an antibody COVID-19 treatment that appears to kill all known SARS-CoV-2 strains and additional coronaviruses, including Omicron variants, has been produced.
GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology created Sotrovimab, the newest antibody therapy, following a big joint investigation involving scientists from around the country discovered a natural antibody (in the blood of a SARS survivor in 2003) with fantastic breadth and efficacy.
Experiments revealed that this antibody, dubbed S309, neutralizes all known SARS-CoV-2 strains, including delta variant and the closely related original SARS-CoV virus, including newly developed mutations that can now “escape” earlier antibody therapy.
During an early phase of the work, Jay Nix, employed beamlines at the ALS and beamlines at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to perform X-ray crystallography on samples of survivor-derived antibodies.
Along with other crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy findings, his work helped generating detailed structural maps of how these antibodies bind to the Covid-19 spike protein, allowing the larger team to pick the most promising candidates and move them forward to cell culture and animal studies. Following good laboratory results, the researchers created sotrovimab based on S309’s structure and tested it in clinical trials.
After trials revealed that persons with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections who got an infusion of the medication had an 85 percent lower hospitalization or death than placebo, the FDA gave sotrovimab an EUA in late May.
The researchers, however, did not stop there.
Given the possibility of new mutations and the emergence of a novel pathogenic coronavirus resulting from an animal-human crossover event, the researchers began a follow-up study to learn more about what makes antibodies resistant to viral escape and how specific antibodies are also broadly reactive against a variety of related viruses. They discovered one antibody with unmatched universal potency using biochemical and structural analyses, thorough mutational scanning, and binding assays.
“This antibody appears to neutralize all known sarbecoviruses – the group of coronaviruses that causes respiratory illnesses in mammals,” said Nix, an affiliate in Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences Area. “And, because of the particular binding site on the mutation-resistant component of the virus, a new strain may have a harder time escaping.”
Following experiments in hamsters, if administered prophylactically, this antibody could even prevent a COVID-19 infection. Nature released the latest research.
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