Victorian scientists made a breakthrough in the use of antibodies to prevent the Coronavirus from infecting human cells in what could be a crucial alternative to a vaccine.
Researchers at the Walter Institute and Elisa Hall obtained $500,000 from the Victorian government to continue developing antibody-based therapies for treating and preventing COVID-19 to prevent the virus from entering cells and stopping infection.
The team is screening millions of antibodies to find the most powerful ones that can target the spike protein on the surface of a coronavirus cell. “You can actually prevent the entry of the virus, but you can also prevent infection,” said Associate Professor Wai Hong Tham, of the Walter Institute and Elisa Hall.
Antibody-based therapies have already been used in treating cancer and immune disorders.
“We are very optimistic. We are working as hard as possible,” Dr. Wai-Hong Tham said on Wednesday.
“It’s an incredibly fast job.
If successful, treatment can be used both as prevention before test results show positive, and as a treatment in the early stages of the disease.
It could be a major breakthrough in fighting the virus until a successful vaccine is secured. It may also be vital for those who cannot get vaccinated due to age or ill-health.
Dr. Wai-Hong Tham said, “In particular, in the elderly before an outbreak, a treatment dependent on antibodies can be given that helps protect the population who can not develop immune response (to the vaccine).
How would antibody therapy work?
Antibodies are proteins that bind to foreign invaders in the body and send a signal to the immune system to start working. In this research, scientists are trying to use antibodies that focus on the spike protein on the virus.
They hope to develop a set of antibodies that interfere with the spike’s function to prevent it from entering healthy cells and causing infection.
Is the government funding other Coronavirus research?
The antibody research is one of 17 projects that have co-funded over $ 14 million from the Victorian government.
Other projects include:
- $4 million for the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity for antiviral research to improve and identify candidate drugs that can be tried quickly.
- $1 million to study the effectiveness of isolation, quarantine and social distancing at Burnet Institute.
$1.4 million for Alfred Health and Monash Partners to Study the Long-Term Physical and Psychosocial Effects of COVID-19 on Frontline Workers.