Israel has isolated a key coronavirus antibody at its primary biological research centre, Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday. He called it a “significant breakthrough” towards a possible treatment for Covid-19.
In an official statement, Bennet claimed that the “monoclonal neutralising antibody” developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) “attacks the virus and neutralizes it” inside the virus carrier’s body.
Monoclonal antibodies, as the name suggests, are cloned from a single recovered cell. Thus, they are much easier to create and use, as opposed to polyclonal antibodies which will have to be derived from multiple cells.
In typical antibody vaccines, neutralisation occurs when the laboratory-developed antibodies mimic the body’s natural immune response and attack the virus when exposed to it.
IIBR completes development phase
According to the Jerusalem Post, IIBR has completed the development phase of the antibody formula and is now looking to manufacture it.
The statement quotes IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira as saying the antibody formula was being patented, after which an international manufacturer would be sought to mass-produce it.
The IIBR, a secretive research unit working directly under the office of Israel’s Prime Minister, has not released any further information about the vaccine itself. If effective, the development of an antibody is very promising, and this vaccine would join several other candidates that are already being touted as potential vaccines for Covid-19.
However, most potential vaccines are currently in human trials. Though Shapira said mass production is about to begin, it is unclear whether the vaccine has been tested for safety or efficacy on humans.
IIBR is a unit that works to counter biological threats against Israel and has been taking the lead in order to develop a treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus, including plasma collection that includes the testing of blood from those who recovered from Covid-19.
Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders and impose increasingly stringent restrictions on movement to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus. It has reported 16,246 cases and 235 deaths due to Covid-19.
A statement issued by Bennet’s office said Israel’s Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), mandated to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, has isolated an antibody “that attacks the virus in a monoclonal way and can neutralise it within the bodies of those ill”.
“I am proud of the institute staff for this terrific breakthrough,” Bennett said, adding that “their creativity and the Jewish mind brought about this amazing achievement”.
The statement, however, did not clarify whether human trials for the vaccine were conducted. According to PTI, the IIBR has conducted some clinical trials. The researchers have identified the protein that is efficient in killing the virus in a patient’s body, and the institute would be publishing a paper soon about the findings, PTI stated.
Similar reports by Israeli daily Ha’aretz, earlier in March, revealed that scientists at the institute had made a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine. However, the Defence Ministry had denied any breakthrough back then stating that “if and when there will be something to report, it will be done in an orderly fashion”.
Citing news portal Ynet, PTI said five shipments of virus samples arrived in Israel from Japan, Italy and other countries in February. They were brought by a specially secured Defence Ministry courier to IIBR and had been frozen at -80 degrees Celsius. There has been intensive work, including by leading experts, to develop the vaccine since then.
The IIBR is under the supervision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office, but is in close communication with the Defence Ministry.
Scientists and research teams around the world are trying to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 as virus-linked deaths have, so far, reached 252,102 and infections across the globe surged to over 3.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.