“I’m happy to report that my team has successfully taken five antibodies that back in 2002 were determined to bind and neutralize, block and stop the SARS virus. This makes them suitable medicines that one could use (on the coronavirus) once they’ve gone through human testing to treat the virus.”
~ Dr. Jacob Glanville, Founder of Distributed Bio
Has there been a breakthrough in the race to halt the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?
According to a California immunologist, his company has engineered a therapeutic antibody that prevents the spread of the virus. If true, this has the potential to end the global health crisis currently ravaging the world.
Stop the Infection, Stop the Pandemic
“The coronavirus, if you were to zoom in on it, you would see a series, a ring of spikes, and it uses those spikes to invade human cells. We’ve identified a series of super potent antibodies that block those spikes and therefore make the virus no longer infectious.”
~ Dr. Glanville
Dr. Glanville explains that neutralizing the ability of the virus to attach to and enter cells prevents new infections. A similar approach is used to treat the Ebola virus.
“This is the thing that turned the tide against Ebola. The Ebola used to be a death sentence, about 50 percent mortality rate. And then once a good antibody neutralizing solution was made, then I think 94 percent of people can walk away,” Dr. Glanville says.
Antibodies are a primary weapon in the fight against many dangerous viruses, including rabies and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. RSV is the most-common cause of pneumonia among infants.
Speed is of the Essence
Dr. Glanville, who is featured on the Netflix program Pandemic, explains the advantage of engineering antibodies versus developing a vaccine.
“What my company is doing is adapting antibodies to recognize and neutralize the novel coronavirus. So this would … [be] sort of skipping what a vaccine does. Instead of giving you a vaccine and waiting for it to produce an immune response, we just give you those antibodies right away. And so within about 20 minutes, that patient has the ability to neutralize the virus.”
“…this is extremely well-established platform technology. It has the advantage. You can produce antibodies much faster than you can make a vaccine,” he says.
What Happens Next?
Dr. Glanville says that his company will now send the completed drug to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The USMRIID will further test the drug’s ability to effectively neutralize the virus.
It will also be sent to an independent laboratory group to test the drug’s safety.
“Both of those pieces of information come together so that we can produce batches, go through some red tape, and then do the first human studies that we’ll do on 200 to 600 people in the summer, probably in July,” Glanville says.
While that may sound like an impossibly-long time from now, keep in mind that drug development takes years, not months.
There is one important caveat, however.
The antibody treatment is not a permanent solution. Glanville says it would work “sort of like a short-term vaccine because these antibodies will only protect recipients for 8 to 10 weeks, unlike a true vaccine.”
Nonetheless, those extra months would slow the global rate of infection, save lives, and give scientists more time to develop a vaccine.