Maria R. Capobianchi
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Researcher at National Institute for Infectious Diseases
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.
Compared to RT-PCR, lower performance of antigen detection assays, including the Lumipulse G SARS-CoV-2 Ag assay, may depend on specific testing scenarios. We tested 594 nasopharyngeal swab samples from individuals with COVID-19 (RT-PCR cycle threshold [Ct] values [≤]40) or non-COVID-19 (Ct values [≤]40) diagnoses. RT-PCR positive samples were assigned to diagnostic, screening, or monitoring groups of testing. With a limit of detection of 1.2 x 104 SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies/ml, Lumipulse showed positive percent agreement (PPA) of 79.9% (155/194) and negative percent agreement of 99.3% (397/400), whereas PPAs were 100% for samples with Ct values of <18 or 18-<25 and 92.5% for samples with Ct values of 25-<30. By three groups, Lumipulse showed PPA of 87.0% (60/69), 81.1% (43/53), or 72.2% (52/72), respectively, whereas PPA was 100% for samples with Ct values of <18 or 18-<25, and was 94.4%, 80.0%, or 100% for samples with Ct values of 25-<30, respectively. RT-PCR positive samples were also tested for SARS-CoV-2 subgenomic RNA and, by three groups, testing showed that PPA was 63.8% (44/69), 62.3% (33/53), or 33.3% (24/72), respectively. PPAs dropped to 55.6%, 20.0%, or 41.7% for samples with Ct values of 25-<30, respectively. All 101 samples with a subgenomic RNA positive result had a Lumipulse assays antigen positive result, whereas only 54 (58.1%) of remaining 93 samples had a Lumipulse assays antigen positive result. In conclusion, Lumipulse assay was highly sensitive in samples with low RT-PCR Ct values, implying repeated testing to reduce consequences of false-negative results.
Journal of Translational Medicine, 2020-06-10
Background: Epidemiological, virological and pathogenetic characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 infection are under evaluation. A better understanding of the pathophysiology associated with COVID-19 is crucial to improve treatment modalities and to develop effective prevention strategies. Transcriptomic and proteomic data on the host response against SARS-CoV-2 still have anecdotic character; currently available data from other coronavirus infections are therefore a key source of information. Methods: We investigated selected molecular aspects of three human coronavirus (HCoV) infections, namely SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and HCoV-229E, through a network based-approach. A functional analysis of HCoV-host interactome was carried out in order to provide a theoretic host-pathogen interaction model for HCoV infections and in order to translate the results in prediction for SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. The 3D model of S-glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 was compared to the structure of the corresponding SARS-CoV, HCoV-229E and MERS-CoV S-glycoprotein. SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, HCoV-229E and the host interactome were inferred through published protein-protein interactions (PPI) as well as gene co-expression, triggered by HCoV S-glycoprotein in host cells. Results: Although the amino acid sequences of the S-glycoprotein were found to be different between the various HCoV, the structures showed high similarity, but the best 3D structural overlap shared by SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, consistent with the shared ACE2 predicted receptor. The host interactome, linked to the S-glycoprotein of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, mainly highlighted innate immunity pathway components, such as Toll Like receptors, cytokines and chemokines. Conclusions: In this paper, we developed a network-based model with the aim to define molecular aspects of pathogenic phenotypes in HCoV infections. The resulting pattern may facilitate the process of structure-guided pharmaceutical and diagnostic research with the prospect to identify potential new biological targets. Keywords. Coronavirus infection; Virus-host interactome; Spike glycoprotein ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the emergent SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus threatens global public health and there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective vaccines. Here we report the generation and the preclinical evaluation of a novel replication-defective gorilla adenovirus-vectored vaccine encoding the pre-fusion stabilized Spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV2. We show that our vaccine candidate, GRAd-COV2, is highly immunogenic both in mice and macaques, eliciting both functional antibodies which neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection and block Spike protein binding to the ACE2 receptor, and a robust, Th1-dominated cellular response in the periphery and in the lung. We show here that the pre-fusion stabilized Spike antigen is superior to the wild type in inducing ACE2-interfering, SARS-CoV2 neutralizing antibodies. To face the unprecedented need for vaccine manufacturing at massive scale, different GRAd genome deletions were compared to select the vector backbone showing the highest productivity in stirred tank bioreactors. This preliminary dataset identified GRAd-COV2 as a potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate, supporting the translation of GRAd-COV2 vaccine in a currently ongoing Phase I clinical trial ([NCT04528641]). ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest. : /lookup/external-ref?link_type=CLINTRIALGOV&access_num=NCT04528641&atom=%2Fbiorxiv%2Fearly%2F2020%2F10%2F22%2F2020.10.22.349951.atom