The CHUV, Lausanne’s university hospital, and EPFL, one of Switzerland’s two federal universities made an important discovery this week in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19.
Scientists at the two organisations have discovered a highly potent monoclonal antibody that targets the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and is effective at neutralising all variants of concern identified to date, including the delta variant.
The newly identified antibody was discovered in lymphocytes (immune cells that destroy infected cells) from Covid-19 patients. The antibody is one of the most powerful identified so far against SARS-CoV-2. In addition, the antibody appears to bind to an area that is not subjected to mutations of the spike protein.
The antibody blocks the spike protein from binding to cells expressing the ACE2 receptor, which the virus uses to enter and infect lung cells. That means the antibody halts the viral replication process, enabling a patient’s immune system to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 from the body. This protective mechanism was proven through in vivo tests on hamsters.
In addition, this new antibody protects patients for 4–6 months, making it an interesting preventive-treatment option for unvaccinated at-risk individuals or for vaccinated individuals who are unable to produce an immune response.
CHUV and EPFL now plan to produce a drug containing the antibody. Clinical trials of the drug should begin in late 2022.
The discovery of this new antibody marks a major step forward in the fight against COVID-19, according to the researchers. It opens the door to improved treatments for severe forms of the disease and to enhanced prophylactic measures, especially for patients with weakened immune systems. However, this antibody is not intended to replace COVID-19 vaccines, which remain the most effective way to prevent infection.
EPFL article (in English)