SINGAPORE: A team of Singaporean scientists has discovered five antibodies that can block COVID-19 infection and protect against key mutations, the Singapore defense research and development organization said on Wednesday.
Human testing for the lead antibody, AOD01, will begin in the coming months, pending approval from the Health Sciences Authority, said DSO National Laboratories.
DSO said its scientists have screened “hundreds of thousands” of B cells – cells that produce antibodies against target pathogens – from blood samples from COVID-19 patients recovered since March of this year.
Scientists successfully isolated the first two antibodies to be tested within one month of receiving blood samples from the National Center for Infectious Diseases and the Singapore General Hospital. Two months later, he identified three other effective antibodies.
This was done using a technique that selects B cells simultaneously with a live virus, allowing rapid identification of antibodies with effective virus-neutralizing properties.
This technique reduces both the time and labor involved, which means that more antibodies can be found and quickly translated into safe and effective treatments for COVID-19 patients in less time.
The technique has been developed by DSO in collaboration with the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Life Sciences Institute at the National University of Singapore over the past five years.
The results showed that the five antibodies “demonstrate neutralization” against COVID-19, said DSO.
“They are all-powerful at blocking infection and effective against key mutations that emerged in the virus during the pandemic,” said DSO.
With the research phase complete, the study is now moving to the preclinical phase, where the team prepares the primary antibody for production, said Dr. Conrad Chan, principal investigator and laboratory director (applied molecular technology).
This will allow clinical trials and develop manufacturing when human trials are successful, he added.
If the clinical trial “goes well”, antibodies could prevent the virus from spreading to the lungs if administered before the disease became too serious, he said in response to questions about how whose antibodies could help patients.
“When you inject the antibody into a person, the antibody then circulates throughout the body … The virus infects the upper respiratory tract, which is in your nose and throat. And then it spreads to the lungs where the serious illness occurs, this is where the real damage occurs, “said Dr. Chan.
“But by circulating the antibodies in your body, you can prevent the virus from infecting your lungs,” he added.
Ideally, antibodies should be given to patients after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and before they become seriously ill, said Dr. Chan.
In addition, since antibodies can stay in a person’s system for up to a month, they can also be given to prevent infection, he said.
“By preventing people from going to intensive care, you really avoid the overload of hospital resources that scares all health care administrators around the world,” he said.
Responding to questions about why antibodies from COVID-19 recovered patients were used, Dr. Chan said that it “improves the chances” that the antibody will be safe and effective.
“Our approach has been to recover antibodies from people who have improved after falling ill with COVID-19 because these antibodies have already been in someone’s home and they have helped them overcome the infection.”
TREATMENT COURSE, VACCINE
Singapore-based biotechnology company Tychan said on June 10 that it will begin human trials this week for a treatment that could slow the progression of COVID-19 in patients, helping them recover faster. and provide temporary protection against the coronavirus.
The company has developed TY207, a monoclonal antibody that specifically targets the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and has received HSA approval. Monoclonal antibodies can be isolated and produced in large quantities to treat diseases.
The potential treatment was developed in partnership with the Department of Defense, the Department of Health, the Economic Development Board, and other government agencies as part of a whole-of-government effort.
In addition, the antiviral drug remdesivir has received conditional approval from the HSA for administration to seriously ill COVID-19 patients in Singapore. This means that doctors can use redeliver to treat adult patients with COVID-19 who need extra oxygen or who need more intensive breathing assistance, such as the use of ventilators or life support devices.
Other drugs used in clinical trials to treat patients with COVID-19 in Singapore include the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir.