The stunning breakthrough was made by researchers at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). They discovered a “highly potent” monoclonal antibody that targets the spike protein of the disease and is “effective at neutralising all variants of concern”. Their findings are published in the prestigious journal Cell Reports.

Antibodies are specialised, Y-shaped proteins released by the immune system like a lock-and-key to the body’s foreign invaders.

This newly discovered antibody is said to be “one of the most powerful” identified so far.

Experts say its structure indicates that it binds to an area that is not subjected to mutations of the spike protein.

This means that it blocks the spike protein from binding to cells expressing the ACE2 receptor, which is the receptor the virus uses to enter and infect lung cells.

Spiked proteins are what give the viruses their name. Under the microscope, researchers can see them working like a lock pick to infect their hosts.

The newly discovered antibody can prevent this process by boosting a patient’s immune system.

This protective mechanism was observed in tests on hamsters.

Specimens that were administered the antibody were protected against infection even after receiving a highly infectious dose.

In addition to its antiviral properties, the new antibody is designed to have a lasting effect on humans.

A typical unaltered antibody provides protection for up to four weeks, this new antibody can last for six months.

It still needs to go through more vigorous analysis, but it could be another treatment in the arsenal for doctors to unvaccinated at-risk individuals or for vaccinated individuals who are unable to produce an immune response.

Immunocompromised patients, organ transplant recipients and those suffering from certain kinds of cancer could be protected against SARS-CoV-2 by receiving antibody injections two or three times a year.

CHUV and EPFL now plan to build on these promising results in association with a start-up company which will perform clinical development and production of the antibody-containing drug.

Clinical trials will start next year.

This research was conducted jointly by CHUV’s Service of Immunology and Allergy, headed by Professor Giuseppe Pantaleo and Dr Craig Fenwick and by EPFL’s Laboratory of Virology and Genetics, headed by Professor Didier Trono and Dr Priscilla Turelli.

It has been hailed as a “major step forward” inn the fight against COVID-19 as it opens the door to improved treatments for severe forms of the disease.

Despite this, the treatment will not eplace COVID-19 vaccines, which remain the most effective way to prevent infection.


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By Seth A. Dunbar

Seth Dunbar leads clinical research study operations and quality & compliance. He is experienced working with teams to help drug sponsors better leverage eSource data. With 10+ years of experience Seth brings expertise developing eClinical services that integrate data and technology to help companies optimise study execution.

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