SAN DIEGO, CA – While earth moving efforts to develop SARS-CoV2 vaccines are underway on multiple fronts, marked by President Donald Trump’s announcement Friday introducing Operation Warp Speed, a team of scientists at California-based biopharmaceutical company Sorrento Therapeutics may have discovered an antibody that they say ‘cuts out the middleman’ of a vaccine and would allow people to return to pre-pandemic lifestyles without fear of becoming infected.
In fact, founder and CEO of Sorrento 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 neutralizing antibody in your body, you don’t need the social distancing. You can open up a society without fear.”
From Fox News:
“[…] Later Friday, Sorrento Therapeutics will announce their discovery of the STI-1499 antibody, which the San Diego company said can provide “100% inhibition” of COVID-19, adding that a treatment could be available months before a vaccine hits the market. […]
Through their studies, Sorrento screened and tested billions of antibodies they have collected over the past decade. They say this made it possible to identify hundreds of potential antibody candidates that could successfully bind themselves to the spike proteins of the coronavirus. They found that a dozen of these antibodies demonstrated the ability to block the spike proteins from attaching itself to the human enzyme ACE2, which is the receptor a virus normally uses to enter human cells.
Through further testing, the researchers at Sorrento found that there was one particular antibody that showed to be 100 percent effective in blocking COVID-19 from infecting health cells — STI-1499.
“When the antibody prevents a virus from entering a human cell, the virus cannot survive,” Dr. Ji said. “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.” […]
Dr. Ji pointed out that the antibody can be used as preventative therapy since there are no side effects, and that it can be more effective than any vaccine that may be developed.
“This is the best solution,” he said. “The point of making a vaccine is to generalize a neutralizing antibody. So, if you already have one, you don’t need the body to generate one from a vaccine. You’ve already provided it. You’re cutting out the middleman.” […]“
That sounds encouraging, no?
Meanwhile, President Trump announced Operation Warp Speed on Friday, with goals to speed up vaccine and treatment development and execute a massive distribution effort.
The president named former GlaxoSmithKline executive Moncef Slaoui has been named chief adviser to the effort. Slaoui held numerous roles at the company over a long career, including chairman of global vaccines. He has since served on pharmaceutical and health tech company boards, including Moderna, the company whose vaccine is the furthest along in development, entering a phase 2 trial.
Even with this operation underway, the significance of an antibody therapy that’s available in the near term cannot be overstated.
For one, the vaccine may only be so effective, and could cause issues of its own considering the volatile disease profile among COVID-19 patients. However, even assuming vaccine effectiveness, many public health advisors and governors will continue recommending and mandating social distancing edicts until that vaccine arrives. While some vaccine efforts are promising, they are still months away at best.
With that in mind, here’s to hoping Sorrento is on to something with STI-1499.
Read more about the promising antibody discovery here.