Even as the nightmare involving new deadly variants of COVID-19 began to grim people, the arrival of vaccines changed the grim narrative and infused a lot of optimism. But the need for treatments for those at high risk of serious illness after being infected with COVID-19 and people with a weak immune system who may not generate a robust response to vaccines has always been felt. In recent months, significant progress has been made in developing effective antibody-based therapies. Currently, three of these drugs have received approval for emergency use from the US Food and Drug Administration.
One such drug, Sotrovimab, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology after a large collaborative study by scientists found a natural antibody in the blood of a SARS survivor in 2003 that has remarkable breadth and effectiveness.
This antibody is called S309. Experiments revealed that it neutralized all known strains of SARS-CoV-2, including newly emerged mutants that can now “escape” from previous antibody therapies, as well as the closely related original SARS-CoV virus.
According to a report in SciTechDaily, Jay Nix, leader of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) Molecular Biology Consortium, performed X-ray crystallography on antibody samples from survivors during an early phase of the study. This helped generate structural maps of how these antibodies fuse with the spike protein SARS-CoV-2, which in turn allowed the developers to select the most promising antibodies. Following the lab results, they designed Sotrovimab.
In May, the FDA approved emergency use of Sotrovimab after tests showed an 85 percent reduction in hospitalization or mortality rates, compared with placebo, in people with mild to moderate COVID infections. 19, who underwent therapy.
However, taking into account that new mutations could emerge, the researchers began a follow-up study to further explore these antibodies. In the process, they identified an antibody with unrivaled potency. Nix said this antibody appears to “neutralize all known sarbecoviruses – the genus of coronaviruses that cause respiratory infections in mammals”, making it “more difficult for a new strain to escape”.