Company News: PNAS Paper Details Efficacy of a Potent, Fully Human Antibody for the Treatment of MERS

First human-derived antibody which is suitable for prophylaxis, post-exposure prophylaxis, and treatment of MERS

Therapeutic compound under development by Humabs BioMed on a non-profit basis

Humabs BioMed SA, a leading Swiss antibody therapeutics company, today announced that Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has published a paper describing the isolation and characterization of a potent antibody from memory B-cells of a patient recovering from an infection with coronavirus (CoV) and the resulting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The antibody, which was isolated from the infected individual two years ago, is active against all three clinically relevant MERS-CoV strains and against a site that is conserved in all MERS strains, including the strain responsible for the latest outbreak in South Korea. Humabs has developed a production cell line allowing  – depending on regulatory clearance – the antibody either to be made available on the basis of a compassionate use program or to enter Phase I trials within a few months.

The human monoclonal antibody, code-named LCA60, binds to a novel, evolutionary highly conserved site on the Coronavirus spike protein. Thereby, it interferes with the binding of the virus to the receptor CD26 on target cells of the respiratory tract. LCA60 is highly effective both in prophylaxis and therapy in relevant preclinical models.

The initial screening, discovery and isolation of the anti-MERS LCA60 antibody was a joint effort of Public Health England (PHE, London, UK), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB, Bellinzona, Switzerland) affiliated to the Università della Svizzera italiana, the Department of Critical Care of the St Thomas’ Hospital (London, UK) and Humabs BioMed. Using the Cellclone technology developed by Prof. Antonio Lanzavecchia, which Humabs has exclusively licensed from the IRB, it took only five weeks to functionally select, clone and sequence LCA60 from the initial screening of human B cells derived from a convalescent patient, and an additional three months to develop a stable CHO cell line for manufacturing.

For the further characterization and testing of LCA60, Humabs BioMed collaborated with the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA, USA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (Chapel Hill, NC, USA). The antibody will be made available on a non-profit basis.

“Our antibody was tested against 3 relevant strains and, according to our analysis on the epitope, it is active against all MERS isolates, including the last ones from the South Korean outbreak,” said Davide Corti, CSO of Humabs. “This last outbreak highlighted the importance of the spread of the virus in the hospital settings followed by a quarantine of large number of people at risk of exposure, so it is important to note that our antibody can also be administered pre-exposure to protect clinical personnel and caregivers.”

“Our anti-MERS antibody provides a good example of the rapid pathway we have established for the generation of effective antiviral therapies against emerging viruses,” said Alcide Barberis, CEO of Humabs BioMed. “This is of great importance in combatting the outbreak of epidemics of life-threatening diseases within a short time frame. This anti-MERS antibody could be developed for compassionate use as well as for stockpiling and made available at no costs to patients in the case of an epidemic. We are currently seeking financial support for GMP manufacturing and early clinical development. We hope charities will step in for bringing this compound to MERS patients and individuals at risk of infections.”