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Antibodies from a SARS Patient Could Help Fight Coronaviruses Now and in the Future

Antibodies from a SARS Patient Could Help Fight Coronaviruses Now and in the Future
Scientists from UT Austin and elsewhere found many human antibodies that bind to the spike protein of SARS-like viruses. On the left, two copies of an antibody dubbed ADI-55689 (orange) bind two different sites on the spike protein (white). On the right, a different antibody dubbed ADI-56046 (purple) binds another site on the spike protein. These antibody binding sites are close to sites where the spike protein binds to receptors on the surface of human cells (red) and to another monoclonal antibody dubbed CR3022 (light blue).

As terrifying as the current pandemic is, scientists believe some of the hundreds of other known coronaviruses in bats might also have the potential to make the cross-species leap into humans, as this one probably did. Scientists are already thinking about ways to prevent another coronavirus from spiraling out of control. Basic research published in the journal Science provides evidence that an antibody therapy that's effective against all SARS-like coronaviruses is possible.

A team of researchers, including Jason McLellan at The University of Texas at Austin, analyzed the blood of a patient who was infected with the virus that causes SARS (SARS-CoV-1) in 2003 and recovered. In work led by biotech company Adimab, researchers identified antibodies that broadly neutralize SARS-like coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and the bat SARS-like virus WIV1 in a cell culture.

If shown to be effective in humans, these antibodies, or improved versions of them, could be used as a frontline therapy to give people immediate protection from a host of SARS-like viruses, including the current one. That could be useful not only in addressing our pandemic of today, but also if a second coronavirus emerges while the world is still grappling with COVID-19 or if SARS-CoV-2 mutates.

"We'd prefer not to have to make one of these every time there's a new outbreak," McLellan said. "And so if you can start to generate breadth, then that can be helpful and you can have those stockpiled. And maybe in the future, if it's another SARS-like virus, you can immediately start giving the antibody to healthcare workers and protecting them."

Other co-authors at UT Austin are Daniel Wrapp, Nicole V. Johnson, Ching-Lin Hsieh and Nianshuang Wang. The UT Austin researchers provided probes for isolating potent antibodies; measured how strongly different antibodies bound to a surface protein on SARS-like viruses, called the spike protein; and identified where the antibodies are binding on the spike protein.

Colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) infected cells from animals with various SARS-like viruses and demonstrated that the antibodies they isolated from the recovered SARS-CoV-1 patient are effective at blocking infection by SARS-like viruses.

Researchers at Adimab are currently working to increase the potency of the antibodies, while also maintaining their ability to broadly neutralize a range of SARS-live viruses. If they succeed, the world may be far better prepared for the next pandemic.

Other participating institutions include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital.

This work was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Monday, 06 July 2020

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