How Monoclonal Antibodies Might Prove Useful Against The Coronavirus

27 Mar, 2020

Scientists working to quell the COVID-19 pandemic think it will be possible to figure out which antibodies are most potent in quashing a coronavirus infection, and then make vast quantities of identical copies of these proteins synthetically.

This approach — using infusions of what are known as monoclonal antibodies – has already proved to be effective in fighting a variety of diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Several efforts are underway to turn this approach on the coronavirus, with hopes of getting something ready for human testing within the next few months.

One such project, supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is called the Pandemic Prevention Platform. The idea is to shorten to just 90 days the time it takes to develop effective countermeasures to a biological threat like the coronavirus.

"I am happy to say that the clock has started," says DARPA's Amy Jenkins. "The clock started the first week of March."

The first step in the process is to identify the specific antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus.

The next step is to see if those antibodies can block the virus from infecting cells in the lab. Jenkins says that second step should be completed soon.

If the antibodies work to protect cells from infection, then researchers will test them in animals exposed to the virus — to see if the proteins prevent the animals from getting sick, or, alternatively, if they can improve the health of animals that are sick with a version of COVID-19.

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