Profile Url: gaya-amarasinghe
Researcher at Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, Washington University School of Medicine
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of enveloped, RNA viruses that circulate in mammals and birds. Three highly pathogenic strains have caused zoonotic infections in humans that result in severe respiratory syndromes including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome CoV (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoV (SARS), and the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Here, we describe a panel of synthetic monoclonal antibodies, built on a human IgG framework, that bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 (the causative agent of COVID-19), compete for ACE2 binding, and potently inhibit SARS-CoV-2. All antibodies that exhibited neutralization potencies at sub-nanomolar concentrations against SARS-CoV-2/USA/WA1 in Vero E6 cells, also bound to the receptor binding domain (RBD), suggesting competition for the host receptor ACE2. These antibodies represent strong immunotherapeutic candidates for treatment of COVID-19. ### Competing Interest Statement S.S, P.P.P and S.J, are cofounders of Virna Therapeutics. The company is developing novel therapies for COVID-19 and other viruses.
Neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) hold promise as effective therapeutics against COVID-19. Here, we describe protein engineering and modular design principles that have led to the development of synthetic bivalent and tetravalent nAbs against SARS-CoV-2. The best nAb targets the host receptor binding site of the viral S-protein and its tetravalent versions can block entry with a potency that exceeds the bivalent nAbs by an order of magnitude. Structural studies show that both the bivalent and tetravalent nAbs can make multivalent interactions with a single S-protein trimer, observations consistent with the avidity and potency of these molecules. Significantly, we show that the tetravalent nAbs show much increased tolerance to potential virus escape mutants. Bivalent and tetravalent nAbs can be produced at large-scale and are as stable and specific as approved antibody drugs. Our results provide a general framework for developing potent antiviral therapies against COVID-19 and related viral threats, and our strategy can be readily applied to any antibody drug currently in development.
Cell Host & Microbe, 2020-07-03
Antibody-based interventions against SARS-CoV-2 could limit morbidity, mortality, and possibly disrupt epidemic transmission. An anticipated correlate of such countermeasures is the level of neutralizing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, yet there is no consensus as to which assay should be used for such measurements. Using an infectious molecular clone of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) that expresses eGFP as a marker of infection, we replaced the glycoprotein gene (G) with the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 (VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2) and developed a high-throughput imaging-based neutralization assay at biosafety level 2. We also developed a focus reduction neutralization test with a clinical isolate of SARS-CoV-2 at biosafety level 3. We compared the neutralizing activities of monoclonal and polyclonal antibody preparations, as well as ACE2-Fc soluble decoy protein in both assays and find an exceptionally high degree of concordance. The two assays will help define correlates of protection for antibody-based countermeasures including therapeutic antibodies, immune γ-globulin or plasma preparations, and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Replication-competent VSV-eGFP-SARS-CoV-2 provides a rapid assay for testing inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 mediated entry that can be performed in 7.5 hours under reduced biosafety containment. ### Competing Interest Statement M.S.D. is a consultant for Inbios, Vir Biotechnology, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, and on the Scientific Advisory Board of Moderna. D.C. and H.W.V. are employees of Vir Biotechnology Inc. and may hold shares in Vir Biotechnology Inc. S.P.J.W. and P.W.R. have filed a disclosure with Washington University for the recombinant VSV.