COVID-19 vaccines that save lives are letting people feel positive again, after over one year of fear and tragedy. But vaccines are just one side of the coin, treatments that can prevent serious disease after a person has been infected are needed.

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Antibody-based Therapy

In the previous year, there has been remarkable progress in producing antibody-based therapies that are effective, and currently, three drugs are obtainable through EUA - emergency use authorization - by the FDA. 

GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology developed the newest antibody therapy called Sotrovimab after a large cooperative study by scientists from all over the nation found a natural antibody - in a SARS survivor's blood, back in 2003 - that has notable breadth and efficacy.

Experiments revealed that this antibody referred to as S309, counteract all identified SARS-CoV-2 strains - including mutants that emerged newly and can now "escape" from former antibody therapies - and also the closely related main SARS-CoV virus.

Based at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS), a leader of the Molecular Biology Consortium whose name is Jay Nix made use of beamlines at the ALS and beamlines at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to carry out X-ray crystallography on specimens of antibodies derived from survivor during an initial phase of the study. 

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His work, together with other discoveries from crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, assisted in generating comprehensive structural maps of the way these antibodies bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. And letting the wider team choose the most encouraging candidate and develop them to cell culture - and studies that are animal-based.

After thrilling lab outcomes, the developers produced sotrovimab formed on the structure of S309 and then assessed it in clinical trials.

Toward the ending of May, after trials revealed that individuals with COVID-19 infections that are mild to moderate who got an infusion of the therapy had an 85% decrease in rates of hospitalization or death, compared with placebo, the FDA permitted an emergency use authorization for sotrovimab.

But the scientists didn't stop there.

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Being able to understand that new mutations could emerge and that a novel pathogenic coronavirus could arise from a crossover event involving animals and humans, the scientists started a further study to comprehensively know the factors that make antibodies resistant to viral escape and how definite antibodies are also generally reactive against various, related viruses.

Making use of deep mutational scanning, structural and biochemical analysis, and binding experiments, they were able to discover one antibody that has an unparalleled universal potency.

Nix, an affiliate in Berkeley Lab's Biosciences Area said: "This antibody, which binds to a previously unknown site on the coronavirus spike protein, appears to neutralize all known sarbecoviruses - the genus of coronaviruses that cause respiratory infections in mammals. And, due to the unique binding site on mutation-resistant part of the virus, it may well be more difficult for a new strain to escape."

Succeeding tests in hamsters propose that this antibody could even help in the prevention of  COVID-19 infection if given as a preventive measure. The new work was released in Nature.

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