A research collaboration involving Utrecht University, Erasmus Medical Center and Harbour BioMed (HBM) reported recently they identified a fully human monoclonal antibody that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus from infecting cultured cells. Published last month in Nature Communications, the team made an initial but material step forward toward developing a fully human antibody to treat or prevent the respiratory disease COVID-19.
HBM recently reported on this positive news involving previous research of Berend-Jan Bosch, PhD, Associate Professor and Research Leader at Utrecht University—he happened to be co-author of the recent study published in Nature Communication.
TrialSite News offers a preliminary breakdown of this endeavor and looks forward to progressing from this collaborative out of Holland.
What is the breakthrough?
The team was able to identify a SARS-CoV-2 antibody out of a whole collection of antibodies under study in the Netherlands. They found one such antibody that actually neutralizes infection by the novel coronavirus in a cultured cells.
What potential does this antibody have?
It has the potential to actually change the course of infection helping to clear the virus or possibly protect uninfected individuals that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
What is the significance that this new antibody binds to SARS and SARS-CoV-2?
According to Dr. Berend-Jan Bosch. “This cross-neutralizing feature of the antibody is very interesting, and suggests it may have potential in mitigation of diseases cause by future-emerging related coronaviruses.”
Does the discovery provide enough foundation for more research in an effort to characterize and commence a prospective COVID-19 drug treatment candidate?
Yes. Frank Grosveld, PhD, co-lead author also happens to be a professor at Erasmus Medical Center and the Founding Chief Scientific Officer at Harbour BioMed. He reports that this “fully human antibody” supports rapid development effort. He reminds the reader in their press release that conventional therapeutic antibodies are first developed in other species and then undergo considerable additional work to “humanize” them. But the researchers leveraged Harbour BioMed’s H2L2 transgenic mouse technology.
What is BioMed’s H2L2 transgenic mouse technology?
H2L2 represents the introduction of human heavy and light chain transgene loci into an engineered mouse background, which results in the production—in response to antigen challenge—of either a single class of conventional human antibodies carrying a specific set of effector function (e.g. IgG or IgA), or multiple classes antibodies dependent on the design of the introduced heavy chain immunoglobulin loci. Antigen specific H2L2 monoclonal antibodies can be recovered using standard hybridoma technology. This technology is covered by U.S. and several international issued and pending patents rights.
Does HBM seek to develop this SARS-CoV-2 antibody alone or with a biopharma partner?
Noting that it represents “groundbreaking research,” according to Dr. Jingson Wang, Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of HBM, the company will seek a partner. Dr. Wang believes, “Much more work is needed to assess whether this antibody can protect or reduce the severity of the disease in humans.”
Utrecht University Background
Founded in 1636, Utrecht University is one of the largest research universities of Europe, with over thirty thousand students and a staff of more than six thousand. They invest in creating the leaders of the future through innovative education of the highest quality, as reflected by the University’s consistently high position in international rankings. Dedicated to performing groundbreaking research aimed at resolving large global issues, their culture of cooperation is a breeding ground for innovation, new insights and social impact.
Erasmus MC is the largest University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Our primary goal is a healthy population. Nearly 14,000 employees devote themselves every day to providing outstanding care, facilitating world-class education and conducting pioneering research. These professionals are instrumental in developing expertise on health and illness. They link the latest scientific insights to practical treatments and prevention measures to provide maximum benefit to patients and to enable healthy people to stay healthy longer. Being visibly better and leading the way in the areas of complex, innovative and acute care by collaborating with others: these are key ambitions at Erasmus MC.
Harbour BioMed is a global, clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing innovative therapeutics in the fields of immuno-oncology and inflammatory diseases. The company is building its proprietary pipeline through internal R&D programs, collaborations with co-discovery and co-development partners and select acquisitions. The company has raised at least $210 million, according to Crunchbase.
The company’s internal discovery programs are centered around its two patented transgenic mouse platforms (Harbour Mice®) for generating both fully human monoclonal antibodies and heavy chain only antibodies (HCAb) and HBICE™ immune cell engager technology for developing bispecific antibodies. Harbour BioMed also licenses the platforms to companies and academic institutions. The company has operations in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Rotterdam, The Netherlands; and Suzhou & Shanghai, China.
Berend-Jan Bosch, PhD, Associate Professor and Research Leader at Utrecht University
Call to Action: As the company tends to focus on discovery, Harbour BioMed is potentially seeking a biotech/pharma potential to co-develop this early-stage, preclinical antibody candidate.