A team of Singapore scientists has discovered five antibodies that can block Covid-19 infection and protect against the key mutations that have emerged in the virus during the pandemic, the country’s defence research and development organisation said on Wednesday.
Human trials for the lead antibody, AOD01, will commence in the coming months, pending approval from the Health Sciences Authority, said the Defense Science Organisation (DSO) National Laboratories.
The DSO said that its scientists have screened “hundreds of thousands” of B cells – the cells that produce antibodies to target pathogens – from the blood samples of recovered Covid-19 patients since March this year. The scientists managed to isolate the first two antibodies for testing within a month of receiving the blood samples from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Singapore General Hospital.
Two months later, it identified another three effective antibodies. This was done using a technique that screens B cells simultaneously with live virus, allowing antibodies with effective virus neutralising properties to be quickly identified, reported Channel News Asia.
The technique was developed by the DSO in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Life Sciences Institute over the last five years, according to the report.
Results showed that the five antibodies demonstrate neutralisation against Covid-19, said the DSO.
“They are all potent in blocking infection and effective against key mutations that have emerged in the virus during the pandemic,” it said.
With the research phase completed, the study is now transiting into the preclinical phase, where the team is preparing the lead antibody for production, said Dr Conrad Chan, principal research scientist and laboratory director (applied molecular technology).
This will allow clinical trials to be conducted, and manufacturing to be scaled up when human trials are successful, he added.
If the clinical trial goes well, the antibodies could stop the virus from spreading to the lungs if administered before the illness becomes too severe, he said in response to questions about how the antibodies could help patients.