COVID-19: Positive news on Affinity Biosciences antibodies

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Melbourne-based Affinity Biosciences, a privately held company focused on antibody discovery for cancer therapeutics, has announced the discovery of potent antibodies it said have therapeutic potential against COVID-19.

The company said it commenced screening its library of one hundred billion human antibodies in March. The goal was to discover those that might neutralise SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19. In April, it engaged The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) to test a number of identified candidate antibodies.

"The Doherty Institute has confirmed that Affinity’s antibodies can completely neutralise the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 at a single-digit microgram/ml concentration in a five-day virus neutralisation assay," said the company in a statement.

"The antibodies have high affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein at around 20 picomolar, driven by an exceptionally slow off-rate, a measure of how long the antibody remains bound to its target."

“Our antibodies latch onto the virus spike protein and block its activity,” said Affinity CEO Dr Peter Smith. “These antibodies may be protective in humans by preventing the virus from gaining a foothold in healthy people exposed to the virus, and may be useful in arresting the progress of the virus in an infected person by blocking its ability to infect new cells and replicate.”

The company said the next steps are to manufacture the antibodies for studies, identify and expedited clinical development and related approval pathways, as well as discussions with potential partners.

Affinity’s antibodies are currently in a comparative study being conducted by the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (the CoVIC program) funded by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator launched in March by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Mastercard, and philanthropists.

Affinity is also part of a consortium headed by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for the development of biologics against SARS-CoV-2 which recently received funding from the Victorian Government and the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).