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The Potential of Antibody-Based Therapeutics for COVID-19

Why might antibodies be a key weapon in the medical arsenal against COVID-19?  Antibodies are exquisitely tuned to recognize proteins on the surface of viruses. Antibodies, with fingerprint-like recognition, are tailored for the molecules of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and, because they are natural human immune system molecules, have few off-target effects and less variation in pharmacokinetic activity. Antibodies can provide immediate immunity to those not yet vaccinated, or those who can not be vaccinated, and can protect frontline medical workers, case contacts or lessen severity of disease in those who have become ill. 

The cost to produce therapeutic antibodies is decreasing as new cell lines and culture techniques have brought yields up to grams per liter, so that the cost per dose can be around $10. Results from antibodies having oncology applications showed that engineering of antibody Fc domains can substantially increase the half-life of antibodies in plasma from weeks to months to offer longer-lasting protection. Other research harnesses or controls the immune signaling activities of antibodies. 

To identify the most potent and escape-resistant combination of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against SARS-CoV-2, as part of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator we have recently established a mAb clearinghouse, the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium (CoVIC), led by Erica Ollman Saphire at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. The CoVIC will assign code names to contributed mAbs that will be subjected to parallel, standardized assays to determine antibody affinity for target antigens, identify and bin mAb epitopes, and assess mAb potency. In addition, structural analyses will reveal interactions between mAbs and the antigens they target at an atomic level to guide rational choices for mAb combinations that may have synergistic activity and are resistant to viral escape. 

The ultimate goal of this partnership is to develop an effective product that would be made available, at an affordable cost, to vulnerable populations in low-resource settings. We would be delighted to include your mAbs in this project. Please visit Contribute mAbs for more information.