Tsinghua finds powerful antibodies against COVID-19 virus

Antibodies are natural weapons of our immune system in protecting humans from viral infection. They have been extensively used to treat infectious diseases, various forms of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The team led by Prof. Zhang Linqi from the School of Medicine and Prof. Zhang Zheng from Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital have just reported their successful isolation of 206 monoclonal antibodies from 8 COVID-19 patients. Some of these antibodies demonstrated highly potent  neutralizing activity against live COVID-19 virus. These antibodies represent promising candidates for clinical interventions against COVID-19 virus. These new results have just been posted on the online verion of Nature (weblink here).

In collaboration with Brii Biosciences, the team has already started the development phase of the lead antibodies, and sought clinical trials on COVID-19 patients as early as possible.

While conventional measures such as social distancing, good personal hygiene, and personal protection equipment have proven effective, medical intervention such as safe and effective vaccines and antiviral drugs are more necessary than ever. The latest progress in antibody discovery from Prof Zhang’s team addresses unmet medical needs, providing a powerful tool to prevent and treat COVID-19 infections.

The cellular entry of the COVID-19 virus is dependent on the binding of the viral spike protein to the cell receptor ACE2. Antibodies able to block such interaction would offer an effective and powerful means of disrupting viral entry, thereby cutting off the production line for viral replication. Antibodies identified by Prof. Zhang’s team therefore represent promising candidates for prophylactic and therapeutic agents against COVID-19 infections.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early January 2020, the team led by Prof. Zhang has been working around the clock. Many students and researchers sacrificed their Chinese New Year’s holidays and precious time with their families. Their dedication, hard work and collaborative spirit represent the core values of the new generation of scientists in China.

Despite challenges ahead, the team is confident that scientific discoveries such as antibodies and a vaccine will provide powerful and effective measures in achieving the ultimate cure and complete protection against COVID-19 infection.