Studies conducted more than a decade ago laid the foundation for researchers at UMass Medical School in identifying antibodies that may provide immunity to COVID-19.
In an announcement Friday morning, researchers at MassBiologics of UMass Medical School said they discovered antibodies that may provide effective immunity in the respiratory system against COVID-19.
While COVID-19 began appearing in the United States earlier this year, the research revealed Friday by UMass Medical School dates back to around 2004. Sixteen years ago MassBiologics developed an antibody that was effective toward SARS, a similar virus to COVID-19.
At the time MassBiologics was prepared to initiate clinical trials, but SARS disappeared. Researchers saved those files, though.
When COVID-19 surfaced, Dr. Yang Wang, deputy director for product discovery at MassBiologics and associate professor of medicine, led researchers who retrieved frozen hybridoma cells from their original research, the school said.
The two coronaviruses, SARS and COVID-19, are about 90% similar, however, initial tests showed the antibody developed 16 years ago wasn’t effective.
Wang and her colleagues built on that research and introduced studies from a program that looked at antibodies that helped create immunity on mucosal surfaces. The school said researchers found antibodies that provided relief in gastrointestinal infections was effective against COVID-19.
These antibodies, researchers said, coat mucosal surfaces like the respiratory tract preventing pathogens from binding to host cells.
The antibodies, researchers hope, could prevent COVID-19 from binding to respiratory tracts in people. The discovery represents a critical feature to any vaccine.
Several vaccine candidates have already been identified.
As part of a $1.525 billion deal struck with the Trump administration, Cambridge-based Moderna agreed to provide 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the federal government while clinical trials are underway.
The biotech company is currently in the third phase of its study of the vaccine, which started on July 27 and is being conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Manufacturing the mRNA-1273 vaccine during clinical trial aims to expedite the traditional development timeline in accordance with the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, a program that seeks to produce 300 million doses of a safe coronavirus preventative by January 2021.