Research team finds key antibody against COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital

TAIPEI (CNA) — A group of researchers based in Taiwan and the United Kingdom have found a key antibody against COVID-19 that could be used to develop medication for the disease, a Chang Gung University (CGU) professor said Thursday.

The antibody has the ability to prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from entering human cells, and has a 90 percent to 98 percent efficacy rate, said Shih Shin-ru (施信如), director of the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections at CGU.

Shih explained that for the virus to infect the body, it has to integrate with a protein attached to the surface of human cells called the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).

The antibody discovered by the team can prevent this process from happening by integrating with ACE2 first, thus blocking the virus’ path to infection, Shih said.

The antibody, which was isolated from a COVID-19 patient, has been effective against regional variations of the virus found in China, the United States, Europe and Egypt in human cell tests and the research team is now planning on using it to develop medication.

According to Shih, antibody drugs are usually safer and cause fewer side effects as they are made from antibodies that the body naturally produces.

The team plans to meet with manufacturers in June, who will conduct further trials of the medicine before going into mass-production, Shih said.

If all goes well, the medicine could be on the market by the end of the year, Shih said.

Although the antibody has shown promising results in human cell testing, Shih said that no clinical trials have been conducted yet, so it is still uncertain how it would perform in COVID-19 patients.

The team behind the project is comprised of researchers from Taiwan’s Chang Gung University, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Academia Sinica and the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the National Defense Medical Center, as well as Oxford University in the U.K.

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