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Researchers Develop SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibody that Could Cure as Well as Prevent COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 21 May 2020
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Image: Sunney Xie (in the middle) and some members of his team (Photo courtesy of Peking University)
Image: Sunney Xie (in the middle) and some members of his team (Photo courtesy of Peking University)
A team of Chinese researchers have successfully identified multiple highly potent neutralizing antibodies against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from convalescent plasma by using high-throughput single-cell sequencing.

The new results of animal studies carried out by researchers at Peking University {(PKU) Beijing, China} showed that their neutralizing antibody provides a potential cure for COVID-19 as well as means for short-term prevention, making a major milestone in the fight against the pandemic.

The researchers collected blood samples from over 60 convalescent patients, among which 14 highly potent neutralizing antibodies were selected from 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes. Their most potent antibody, BD-368-2, exhibited an IC50 of 8pM and 100pM against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2. The in vivo antiviral experiment of neutralizing antibodies using hACE2 transgenic mice model showed that BD-368-2 antibody could provide strong therapeutic efficacy and prophylactic protection against SARS-CoV-2: When the BD-368-2 antibody was injected into infected mice, virus load was decreased by ~ 2400 times; when uninfected mice were injected with BD-368-2, they were protected from the virus infection.

In addition, the researchers also obtained the 3.8Å Cryo-EM structure of a neutralizing antibody in complex with the Spike-ectodomain trimer. It revealed the antibody’s epitope overlaps with the ACE2 binding-site, which provides the structural basis of neutralization. Moreover, they showed that SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies could be selected with high efficiency based on similarities of their predicted structures to those of SARS-CoV neutralizing antibodies, hence greatly expediting the screening process. The potent neutralizing antibody could be used to develop drugs for both therapeutic intervention and prophylactic protection against SARS-CoV-2. Clinical trials are underway, and the researchers are confident of finding a cure.

“If the COVID-19 epidemic reappears in the winter, our neutralizing antibody might be available by that time,” said Sunney Xie, Director of Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics at PKU.

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