by Perry Chiaramonte
"If we have the neutralizing antibody in your body, you don't need the social distancing. You can open up a society without fear."
A California-based biopharmaceutical company claims to have discovered an antibody that could shield the human body from the coronavirus and flush it out of a person’s system within four days, Fox News has exclusively learned.
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.
"We want to emphasize there is a cure. There is a solution that works 100 percent," Dr. Henry Ji, founder and CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics, told Fox News. "If we have the neutralizing antibody in your body, you don't need the social distancing. You can open up a society without fear."
The health care and pharmaceutical industries have been scrambling to develop viable vaccines and antibody treatments as the number of COVID-19-related deaths is expected to hit 100,000 by June 1.
Many medical researchers are scrambling to find antibodies, optimistic that they could provide a remedy or preventative care in less time than it would take to develop a vaccine. Antibody treatments have been used for the past 100 years as a means to stave off infections, but their effectiveness has had mixed results. Finding a successful antibody or convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 could present challenges.
"Doctors are taking blood plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and infusing it into those who are critically ill. The plasma is laden with antibodies, and the approach shows some promise," former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. "The constraint: There isn’t enough plasma from recovered patients to go around."
Some medical experts believe that while antibody research shows promise, there are concerns for how long the effects may last in fighting the virus in an infected patient.
“Antibodies, in general, have been very effective at bringing virus [levels] down if you’ve had a high burden of infection,” Phyllis Kanki, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a recent interview. “There are limitations to how much you can give and for how long.”
Officials for Sorrento Therapeutics believe they have found the key to a successful treatment.
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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."
"This puts its arms around the virus. It wraps around the virus and moves them out of the body."
"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 to the body to generate one from a vaccine. You've already provided it. You're cutting out the middleman."
It was recently announced Sorrento had partnered with New York-based health care system Mount Sinai to develop an antibody cocktail. Dubbed Covi-Shield, the cocktail will be comprised of three different antibodies and, pending FDA approval, will be used as a prophylactic treatment for people returning to work and those who have been exposed to COVID-19.
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Sorrento officials said that STI-1499 will likely be the first antibody in the cocktail. They are also looking to develop the antibody as a stand-alone therapy due to its high potency, according to a statement provided to Fox News.
They said that they can provide up to 200,000 doses per month and are looking to produce tens of millions more to meet projected demands.
Dr. Mark Brunswick, senior vice president of Sorrento, said that developing antibody treatments may be more effective in quickly combating the coronavirus. While a vaccine treatment can take up to 18 months, effective anti-body treatment can become available in much less time and with a much higher success rate. He points out, however, that a quick approval from the Food and Drug Administration would be needed to make the antibody treatment available within months.
"As soon as it is infused, that patient is now immune to the disease," Dr. Brunswick said to Fox News. "For the length of time, the antibody is in that system. So, if we were approved [by the FDA] today, everyone who gets that antibody can go back to work and have no fear of catching COVID-19."
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