Israel isolates coronavirus antibody in ‘significant breakthrough’

Dude, the only vaccination I’m having is an Israeli vaccination! 😎

Israel isolates coronavirus antibody in ‘significant breakthrough’

“Monoclonal neutralizing antibody” developed at Israel Institute for Biological Research “can neutralize [the disease-causing coronavirus] inside carriers’ bodies,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says, calling the step a “significant breakthrough.”

By  Maytal Yasur Beit-Or , Reuters , Israel Hayom Staff  Published on  05-05-2020

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that Israel has isolated a key coronavirus antibody at its main biological research laboratory in Ness Ziona, calling the step a “significant breakthrough” toward a possible treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “monoclonal neutralizing antibody” developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research “can neutralize [the disease-causing coronavirus] inside carriers’ bodies,” Bennett said in a statement.

Bennett visited the IIBR on Monday where he was briefed “on a significant breakthrough in finding an antidote for the coronavirus.”

A statement from the defense minister quoted IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira as saying that the antibody formula was being patented, after which an international manufacturer would be sought to mass-produce it.

Shapira said the developmental stage for the antibody was complete. The antibody has yet to receive an official name.

The IIBR has been leading Israeli efforts to develop a treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus, including the testing of blood from those who recovered from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Antibodies in such samples – immune-system proteins that are residues of successfully overcoming the coronavirus – are widely seen as a key to developing a possible cure.

The antibody reported as having been isolated at the IIBR is monoclonal, meaning it was derived from a single recovered cell and is thus potentially of more potent value in yielding a treatment.

Elsewhere, there have been coronavirus treatments developed from antibodies that are polyclonal, or derived from two or more cells of different ancestry, the magazine Science Direct reported in its May issue.

It should be noted that experts estimate the testing period for the antibody could be at least one year. They also stressed that at this stage the antibody has only been researched in a lab and that many hurdles must be crossed before it is turned into a medicine.

About 100 research groups around the world are pursuing vaccines, with nearly a dozen in the early stages of human trials or poised to start. But so far there’s no way to predict which — if any — vaccine will work safely, or even to name a front-runner.

“I am proud of the staff at the Israel Institute for Biological Research who have made a huge breakthrough.… the Defense Ministry in its entirety will continue operating on the front lines of the war against the coronavirus,” Bennett added.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged $60 million (about NIS 210 million) at an international donors conference to raise funds for the joint fight against the virus.

“I am confident that Israel’s leading research institutions, its world-renowned scientists and our unique culture of innovation can enable us to play an important role in advancing solutions… We hope to work with other countries to leverage our unique capabilities to find solutions for the benefit of all,” Netanyahu said.

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, the winner of the 2020 Genesis Prize, announced Monday that he will donate the $1 million award to organizations fighting the coronavirus pandemic and assisting people most affected by the outbreak.

Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders and impose increasingly stringent restrictions on movement to hamper the domestic coronavirus outbreak. It has reported 16,246 cases and 235 deaths from the illness.


Israeli Bio-Defense Lab Says It Found An Antibody That ‘Neutralizes’ The Coronavirus

By NoCamels TeamMay 05, 2020

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

Health NewsColorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (purple), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID CC BY 2.0, Flickr

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) said on Tuesday that it completed a “groundbreaking scientific development” toward a potential treatment for COVID-19 based on an antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus that causes the disease.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense speaking on behalf of the institute emphasized that this achievement could potentially develop into a treatment for COVID-19 patients but that the development was not a vaccine.

The IIBR is a governmental research center specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences that falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped the secretive institute in early February to begin development on producing a vaccine. In early April, the center reported “significant progress” and trials on animals.

The institute has also been involved in plasma collection from Israelis who have recovered from COVID-19 to research antibodies, proteins made by the immune system that can attack the virus.

A scientist at the Migal Research Institute's lab where researchers are working on developing a coronavirus vaccine. March 2020. Courtesy

SEE ALSO: Israeli Team Developing Coronavirus Vaccine Raises $12M For New Startup, To Begin Summer Trials

“This is an important milestone, which will be followed by a series of complex tests and a process of regulatory approvals,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the process could take several months given “the nature of this breakthrough.”

The development has three key parameters, according to the IIBR: first, the antibody is monoclonal (lab-made identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell), and contains a low proportion of harmful proteins; second, the institute has “demonstrated the ability of the antibody to neutralize the coronavirus”; and third, the antibody was specifically tested on SARS CoV2.

“Based on comprehensive scientific publications from around the globe, it appears that the IIBR is the first institution to achieve a scientific breakthrough that meets all three of the aforementioned parameters simultaneously,” the ministry said on Tuesday.

The Ness Ziona-based institute is now pursuing a patent for its development, according to the announcement, after which it will approach international manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a study in the Netherlands published this week in Nature Communications also claimed that a human monoclonal antibody neutralized SARS-CoV-2, and SARS-CoV, in a lab setting.

“Monoclonal antibodies targeting vulnerable sites on viral surface proteins are increasingly recognized as a promising class of drugs against infectious diseases and have shown therapeutic efficacy for a number of viruses,” the scientists of this study wrote.

The antibody known as 47D11, targeted the spike protein that gives the coronavirus its name and shape, and “exhibited cross-neutralizing activity of SARS-S and SARS2-S,” according to the researchers.

These neutralizing antibodies “can alter the course of infection in the infected host supporting virus clearance or protect an uninfected host that is exposed to the virus,” and the 47D11 antibody can either alone or in combination with pharmaceuticals and therapies, offer potential prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19, according to the study.

The global race to find a treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19

A number of Israeli scientific teams and over 70 groups worldwide are currently working to develop a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19.

On Monday, Netanyahu pledged $60 million from Israel toward global efforts to develop therapies, diagnostic kits, and a vaccine for COVID-19 as part of an international summit of world leaders looking to raise $11 billion.

The European Commission pledged $1.09 billion, Britain pledged $482 million, Canada pledged $850 million, Japan promised over $830 million, and Saudi Arabia said it would put forward $500 million toward the effort.

Last month, Israeli scientists at the Migal Galilee Research Institute formed a new company, MigVax, to further adapt a vaccine they developed for a deadly coronavirus affecting poultry for human use. The scientists had been working for four years to develop a vaccine for IBV (Infectious Bronchitis Virus) which affects the respiratory tract, gut, kidney and reproductive systems of domestic fowl. 

Israeli scientists at the Migal Galilee Research Institute are developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Courtesy
Israeli scientists at the Migal Galilee Research Institute are developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Courtesy

MigVax raised $12 million in an investment round led by OurCrowd for further development of the vaccine and said it hopes to begin clinical trials this summer.

Also in April, an Israeli scientist was awarded a US patent for his innovative vaccine design for the corona family of viruses and indicated that he was on track to develop a vaccine for SARS CoV2. 

Meanwhile, two Israeli bio-medical companies have developed COVID-19 treatments that are being tested as part of a compassionate use program, a treatment option that allows for the use of not-yet-authorized medicine for severely ill patients.

RedHill BioPharma‘s investigational drug opaganib was used to treat patients with COVID-19 in Israel and preliminary findings have demonstrated clinical improvement. And Pluristem Therapeutics received backing from the European Investment Bank (EIB) just last week for its PLX cell therapy that it says may potentially be used to treat COVID-19 patients with pneumonia and pneumonitis. The therapy has been tested in Israel and the US with preliminary results showing a 100 percent survival rate.

Pluristem labs. Photo: David Garb
Pluristem labs. Photo: David Garb

In the US, Massachusetts-based company Moderna has begun clinical trials on an experimental vaccine, and California-based biotech firm Gilead Sciences is currently in a Phase III clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of its novel antiviral drug Remdesivir, developed originally for Ebola, in adults diagnosed with COVID-19. Initial results have shown promise.

Pluristem's CEO and president Yaky Yanay.Photo: David Garb

SEE ALSO: European Investment Bank To Provide Israel’s Pluristem With $54M For COVID-19, Other Cell Therapies

These trials build on additional research including two clinical trials in China’s Hubei province led by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, and a clinical trial in the US, led by NIAID.

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