Australian researchers are working on a coronavirus antibody program that could treat and prevent COVID-19, especially among the elderly and vulnerable.


Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham, from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said the antibody research targets the spike protein, which is what the killer virus uses to enter human cells.

If successful, it will boost someone’s immune response to fight off the virus

Assoc. Prof. Tham said the breakthrough therapy could also help immunocompromised patients but she would not give a timeline of when it could be rolled out, if scientifically proven to be safe and effective.

“We have gone through billions of antibodies [and] we have selected the most potent ones that work in the laboratory and are looking forward to development of a safe, potent therapy that we can move into clinical trials,” she said.

“Antibody-based therapies can be used as prevention and treatment.”

The plan would be to provide the treatment before someone was infected, Assoc. Prof. Tham said, “in particular, in settings of elderly populations, who can’t mount an … acute immune response.”

The treatment option could also be delivered to those in the early stages of the sickness, and help the elderly and vulnerable safely be given a vaccine, if one is developed.

Antibody-based therapies have been used for the treatment of cancers and multiple immune disorders.

“We think that it would be an amazing antibody-based tool for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19,” Assoc. Prof. Tham said.

Her team is collaborating with the Doherty Institute, Burnet Institute and CSIRO.

“We don’t have a timeframe, because our paramount importance now is to make it as safe and as effective.”

How does it work?

In short, the virus has a lock and key mechanism between spike protein and human cells.

If scientists can bind an antibody that blocks the spike from interacting with human cells, you can stop virus infection.

Assoc. Prof. Tham’s team is trying to develop two potent combinations of antibodies that gum up the function of spike, and stop it from entering cells in laboratory settings.

Researchers have found that combining two different types of antibodies can stop the escape of mutations.

If successful, the therapy would stop virus entry, stop virus infection and hopefully work against all coronavirus mutations and variants.

The article is originally published at 9 news.