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Dutch Identify Covid-19 Antibody

A group of researchers have identified a human monoclonal antibody capable of preventing the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting cells, which could mean the first step towards treatment against Covid-19, reported the Nature Communications Journal this week. The breakthrough was carried out by researchers from Utrecht University, the Erasmus Medical Centre and Harbor BioMed (HBM), in the Netherlands, who have been researching the first outbreak of coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which occurred in Asia between 2002 and 2003.

Researcher Berend-Jan Bosch, from Utrecht University, stated that by “using antibodies collected in the SARS-CoV study, they had identified an antibody which also neutralises SARS-CoV-2 infection in cultured cells. The neutralising antibody has the potential to alter the course of infection, either by supporting the elimination of the virus or protecting an individual who is not infected but exposed to the virus.”

According to the scientist, this antibody can bind to a domain that is conserved in the two strains of coronavirus, which explains its neutralising action in both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. “This cross-neutralising characteristic of the antibody is fascinating and suggests that it may have the potential to mitigate future diseases caused by the coronavirus,” added Berend-Jan Bosch.

Researcher Frank Grosveld stressed that the antibody used is “entirely human” and provides “a solid basis for further investigation,” to characterise the identified antibody and develop “possible treatments for Covid-19.”

HBM President Jingsong Wang said more work was needed to determine whether this antibody could protect or reduce the severity of the disease in humans. Although he left “other avenues of research” open, Jingsong Wang did not fail to express confidence in the technology to “help respond to this urgent public health need”.

Furthermore, The Israel Institute for Biotechnological Research, for the Ministry of Defense, today announced that it has developed an antibody to the coronavirus and is preparing the patent and identifying potential pharmaceutical companies to produce the antibody commercially.

The institute says that the research centre ensures that the developed antibody attacks and neutralises the virus in sick people. According to the institute’s researchers, headed by Professor Shmuel Shapiro, the development phase of the antibody is complete.”

During a visit to the institute’s laboratory in Nezz Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Benet said that the “antibody attacks the virus in a monoclonal manner.” He went on to say that it was “a great achievement” and that he was “proud of the staff of the Biotechnology Institute for this breakthrough, and Jewish creativity and thinking had achieved this great result.”

Senior Israeli defence and security officials have told the state-run Kan station, that the discovery is the “first of its kind worldwide.” However, the document does not specify whether the vaccine has been tested on humans.

At the moment, there are approximately a hundred research teams worldwide looking for a vaccine for the SARS-Cov-2 virus.  In March, experts warned that even after developing a vaccine it could take up to 18 months before it is approved.

The Israel Institute for Research and Biotechnology is dedicated, among other fields, to investigating chemical weapons looking for antidotes against new substances. Earlier on this year, the Haaretz newspaper reported that while the research centre had made progress in identifying a vaccine, the Ministry of Defense had denied this was the case.

Samantha Gannon

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Madeira Weekly