Researchers find smallest biological molecule that can completely neutralise Covid-19

Henrietta Strickland
September 16, 2020

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 antibody can be administered both orally and intravenously.

One crucial thing is that the antibody does not bind to human cells.

"There's still much work to be done to make this antibody-based drug available to patients to treat COVID-19 but it's an exciting and promising advance as we will work on multiple strategies to end this pandemic", said Dr. Steven Shapiro, UPMC's chief medical and scientific officer. According to the team, the small size of the biologic not only increases its potential for diffusion into tissues to better neutralise the virus, but also enables administration by alternative routes, including inhalation.

Can Be A Preventive Measure As Well?

The UPMC and Pitt researchers are collaborating with scientists at the University of North Carolina, University of Texas Medical Branch, the University of British Columbia and University of Saskatchewan.

Researcher John Mellors of the University of Pittsburgh, USA, associated with this study, said, "AB8 not only has the ability to treat Covid-19 but also can help people avoid infection".

One of the world's largest efforts to find effective COVID-19 treatments will evaluate the impact of REGN-COV2, an investigational antibody cocktail, on mortality, hospital stays, and the need for ventilation. His research dates back to 2003 when he discovered antibodies that had a neutralizing impact for SARS, a viral respiratory illness first reported in Asia.

How does it do it?

Alternatively, antibody domains and fragments such as fragment antigen binding (Fab), single-chain variable fragment (scFv), and heavy-chain variable domain (VH) are attractive formats for candidate therapeutics due to their low molecular mass (under 50 kDa).

Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, added, "Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the power of randomized trials to provide rigorous assessment of potential treatments".

It was combined with part of the immunoglobulin tail area to create Ab8, without the bulk of a full-size antibody.

Its small size might allow it to be given as an inhaled drug or intradermally, rather than intravenously through an IV drip, like most monoclonal antibodies now in development.

Abound Bio, a newly formed UPMC-backed company, has in-licensed the rights to Ab8 for global development.

And when the key, or coronavirus, can't get it into a cell, it can't spread. This corresponds to the specificity of an antibody molecule towards a particular virus. The antibody against Hendra and Nipah viruses has been evaluated in humans and approved for clinical use on a compassionate basis in Australia. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is taken as bait for the research.

To begin, a team at UTMB's Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory, led by Chien-Te Kent Tseng, PhD, tested Ab8 using live SARS-CoV-2 virus.

With these results in hand, Ralph Baric, PhD, and his UNC colleagues tested ab8 at varying concentrations in mice using a modified version of SARS-CoV-2. They found that ab8 significantly decreased infectious virus by 10-fold at two days post infection even at a very low dose of 2 mg/kg in mouse models, compared to untreated counterparts. It helps in making a drug, namely "Ab8", which may prove helpful as a therapeutic and prophylactic against SARS-CoV-2.

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