Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and the global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have joined forces to identify candidates for antibody-based treatments that could protect people exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
Under a recently signed agreement, genetic sequences for antibodies discovered in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) will be provided to AstraZeneca for identification of the most promising candidates for clinical assessment and future clinical use.
The goal is to develop antibodies that could be given to people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to reduce the severity of their illness and speed recovery.
“AstraZeneca is a great partner for us, since we have ultra-rapid antibody discovery technologies and have already discovered SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies,” said VVC Director James Crowe, MD. “AstraZeneca has world-class product development and manufacturing expertise that could, if successful candidates are identified, turn these antibodies into effective biological drugs quickly.”
There currently is no effective treatment or vaccine to stop the spread of
VVC researchers have developed techniques for rapidly isolating clones of antibody-producing white blood cells that produce antibodies targeting specific viral proteins. In the laboratory, these “monoclonal” antibodies are then comprehensively examined to identify those rare antibodies with a laser-like focus for finding — and neutralizing — a specific virus.
Using these techniques, they have generated human monoclonal antibodies against a wide range of pathogenic viruses including Ebola, chikungunya, HIV, dengue, norovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). They have pioneered the rational design of neutralizing antibody treatments and vaccines, some of which have progressed to clinical trials.
For the past several weeks, Crowe, Associate VVC Director Robert Carnahan, PhD, and their colleagues have been working around the clock with an international team of academic, governmental and corporate partners to identify and analyze antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
They have now identified antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus and are rapidly selecting the best candidates for moving forward towards clinical development.