Taiwan-made antibodies show promise in treating coronavirus

Taiwanese scientists find antibodies effective at treating coronavirus in hamsters

Body weight (left), virus quantity (right). (CEEC graphs)

Body weight (left), virus quantity (right). (CEEC graphs)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday (July 29) announced that two new antibodies being researched to treat the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) are showing promise in animal trials.

According to a CECC statement, the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) and the Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) of the National Defense Medical Center (NDMC) are working together to select antibodies that are based on antibodies for the SARS virus and can recognize SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, and invest in their development as monoclonal antibody therapies. Thus far, the research team has used monoclonal antibodies to treat hamsters infected with the coronavirus.

The results of the experiments found that the viral load in the hamsters' lungs had dropped significantly, while their weight and activity level remained normal. This indicates that the antibodies are having the desired therapeutic effect.

A previous research team had successfully identified antibodies capable of neutralizing the SARS virus. According to the CECC, the antibodies' can recognize the amino acid sequence of the SARS spike protein as easily as they can that of COVID-19.

In order to verify the therapeutic potential of the antibodies from COVID-19, the research team first infected cells with the coronavirus and found that the antibodies' ability to inhibit the virus from infecting the cells was "quite significant."

For the hamster phase of the trials, the team infected the rodents in groups of five. They then left the control group untreated, while treating two other groups with either Mab-X or Mab-Y antibodies. The results of the experiment showed that the weight and activity of hamsters who did not receive the antibody treatment decreased significantly.

However, hamsters that received antibody therapy showed no significant weight loss or reduction in activity. More importantly, those that did not receive the antibodies had a high viral count in their lungs, while the viral load in the lungs of those that had been injected with the antibodies was "100 times lower."

Based on the results, it is evident that Mab-X and Mab-Y antibodies have the potential to treat COVID-19. According to the CECC, this is one of the few monoclonal antibody therapies in the world that has proven to be effective in treating the virus in animal experiments.

In order to continue the research, the NHRI and NDMC will seek upstream and downstream suppliers with relevant experience in antibody development and manufacturing to assist in the subsequent stages of technology transfer, commercial development, and clinical trials. The researchers hope the new monoclonal antibodies can be mass-produced and put on the market as soon as possible, which will not only benefit coronavirus patients but also add another weapon to the government's epidemic prevention arsenal.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Liao Ching-len (廖經倫), the director of the NHRI's Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, said that the therapeutic antibodies are special in that they can specifically identify areas where SARS-Cov-2 is not prone to mutation, which means that the antibodies will not lose their effectiveness with normal mutations of the virus, reported CNA. In terms of treatment, Liao said the antibodies can be used either alone or combined with others to enhance the overall therapeutic effect in an antibody cocktail.

Body weight (left), virus quantity (right). (CEEC graphs)