Scientists at a California biotech company say it has found an antibody that completely blocks coronavirus, a finding they now call a ‘cure,’ it has emerged.
Sorrento Therapeutics, based in San Diego, claims the antibody dubbed as STI-1499 stopped coronavirus from entering 100 percent of healthy human cells in petri dish experiments.
In a press release, Sorrento said it could produce up to 200,000 doses of the antibody a month – a production timeline that would likely make the drug available months sooner than a COVID-19 vaccine is expected.
The company has filed for emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but has not yet received the green light.
This ‘good news’ caused a stock soar for Sorrento by nearly 220 percent on the heels of the announcement.
Sorrento’s CEO, Dr Henry Ji, told Fox News;
We want to emphasize there is a cure. There is a solution that works 100 percent. If we have the neutralising antibody in your body, you don’t need the social distancing. You can open up a society without fear.
Though, this is a significant and promising finding but its effects on the virus were in lab tests on human cells. The company can’t rightfully say that it has blocked the infection in the human body, Daily Mail reports.
This is because the antibody has not yet been tested in any human volunteers, so it is totally unknown how the body might react to it and if there are potential side effects.
This comes as social distancing guidelines are being relaxed in many states in the US. States are beginning to reopen despite expert warnings that relaxing restrictions may trigger a ravaging second wave of infections.
STI-1499 is one of about a dozen antibodies – immune cells that neutralize pathogens like coronavirus – that the company discovered had some effect on it.
Sorrento in collaboration with Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York plans to combine the antibodies for a ‘cocktail drug’
A cocktail of antibodies could act like a ‘protective shield’ for human cells, preventing the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 – from entering them.
It blocks the virus from the primary doorway, a receptor on the surface of human cells called ACE2 receptor.
Dr Ji explained that;
This puts its arms around the virus. It wraps around the virus and moves them out of the body. When the antibody prevents a virus from entering a human cell, the virus cannot survive.
If they cannot get into the cell, they cannot replicate. So it means that if we prevent the virus from getting the cell, the virus eventually dies out. The body clears out that virus.
Multiple companies and universities around the world have been exploring the use of antibodies to treat coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Gilead’s antiviral, Remdesivir, was given emergency FDA approval after it showed slim but promising benefits for survival and quicker recovery time.
The FDA has however not yet approved the use of antibody-rich plasma for treating coronavirus, but is currently investigating it.
As at Saturday, more than 1.46 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 88,000 have died.