A car of the courier company stopped at 2215 Yukon Road, Vancouver, Canada. The courier pulls out a bio-sealed box from the trunk. To him, the box is nothing special. But with 117 AbCellera employees, the item they were waiting for was a real treasure.
Inside the box delivered to a Canadian-based biotechnology company is a blood sample of a cured COVID-19 patient. It was sent here from the United States and was one of the first blood samples allowed by the US government to be supplied outside its territory.
The blood of the survivor is rich in immune cells. They are cells that secrete antibodies tridentified that capture the corona virus and prevent it from infecting into cells. These molecules are what helps COVID-19 patients recover and are more likely to be immune to the disease for several months.
Antibodies are AbCellera’s target. Once the blood sample arrived, their scientists quickly analyzed it on a microfluidic chip – where individual immune cells could be isolated, allowing researchers to look at resistance. their bodies.
“Within three days, we examined 5 million cells and found 500 types of antibodies they secreted that could stick to prickly proteins on the surface of the virus – potentially blocking it,” AbCellara CEO Carl Hansen said. “Any one of these antibodies could be a remedy for patients with COVID-19 still in hospital.”
COVID-19 patient’s blood recovered: A priceless gift
AbCellera is not the only biotechnology company to hunt for also tricyclic antibodies in the blood of patients recovering from COVID-19. In the US, many other companies including Berkeley Light, GenScript, Regeneron Chemicals and VIR Biotech are also looking for it.
The antibodies can block the virus and neutralize this half-dead pathogen. That means that a single dose of antibody injected to a patient with severe COVID-19 could defeat infection and reduce mortality.
These doses are not necessarily vaccines, but because the antibodies will persist for weeks or months in the bloodstream, they may also act like a temporary vaccine to protect health care workers in when they are on duty to take care of the sick.
If a specific COVID-19 antibody is found, it could be produced, bottled and exported around the world to become the first treatment for COVID-19 at this time. Conversely, the blood of COVID-19 survivors is currently the most valuable asset.
In March, Rockefeller University in New York sent an email to Americans saying: “Have you recovered from coronavirus infection? If so, the scientists need your help! “ Those over 18 years of age who come to donate blood will be provided with a return compensation.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also later called on patients recovering from COVID-19 to donate blood.
The National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi is also recently contacting cases where COVID-19 eyes have been cured to encourage them to donate serum. This serum will be given directly to patients with a high prognosis.
The use of such a serum is seen as an emergency rescue in the absence of a cure for COVID-19. But that is not a perfect solution, because the patient’s serum contains many antibodies, of which only a small amount of antibodies fight corona virus.
Initial studies in China say the serum is effective, but its effectiveness is limited and certainly not as strong as the drug.
Serum infusion is not the answer to this pandemic, said Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University. Even so, the blood of COVID-19 patients cured remains an invaluable asset. It contains specific antibodies that, if found, can be concentrated and passed on to other patients.
Biotech companies are in a race to hunt for that antibody. The promise could be a year, another year we will have the first dose of COVID-19 based on the antibody of the person recovered.
How do antibodies work?
Inside your circulatory system are innumerable immune cells that follow the bloodstream throughout the body. Each cell has a unique antibody. Think of an antibody as a mine detector with a super sensitive sensor. Inside the body, it can detect foreign particles, including bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.
The human body can produce many types of antibodies. It does it in a very simple way. Every time a foreign pathogen invades, the B-cells in the bone marrow recognize the pathogen. It reconstructs DNA inside immune cells to form a pattern.
From that pattern, the bone marrow will produce a series of B cells that carry antibodies against the pathogen and spray them into the blood stream throughout the body. In a period of 1 week, the number of antibody-carrying B cells overwhelms the number of pathogens in the body. That is considered the immune response point.
AbCellera possesses a microfluidic channel technology that can capture individual B cells from a patient’s blood sample. From there, each cell will be assigned to a micro chamber. On an AbCellera microfluidic chip there are a total of 200,000 and they can analyze 200,000 B cells at the same time.
Analyzes will reveal which cells are producing the antibodies that most strongly bind to the corona virus’s prickly protein, which the virus uses to enter human cells. After finding them, AbCellera will cleverly extract the DNA of B cells to create the strongest antibody, using it to instruct other B cells to focus on creating a specific antibody COVID-19.
“Your body has the potential to encode up to 100 billion different antibodies“Said Hans Hansen.”These B cells are special because they can recombine their DNA, and that’s what our technology can do to find a treatable cell (COVID-19 as well tell another disease) “.
We will need a new Manhattan project
Right now, about 19 million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19. More than 700,000 deaths and 6 million patients are still being treated. If the pandemic continues to follow this trend, it is difficult for any remedy to be found that will immediately respond to the need for treatment.
That is especially true of antibodies. In the past with Ebola, each patient treated often needed up to a high dose of 150 milligrams of antibody per kilogram of body weight. That means the average dose for one person can be up to 10 grams.
In the AbCellera scenario or whatever a biotech company produces COVID-19 antibodies, their customer base could be in the millions. They would have to grow the cells in giant biological tanks, collect the antibodies they secrete and then dry to powder. AbCellera would literally need to produce literally tons of antibodies in order to respond.
COVID-19 is currently an unprecedented pandemic in world history, and the biological industry has never faced such a large demand for antibodies. Carnley Norman, production vice president of KBI Biopharma, an antibody maker, says the world’s largest facilities currently have only 150,000-liter bio-tank systems.
These factories are worth billions of dollars but can only meet the antibody needs of about 1 million people a year. We currently have 6 million COVID-19 patients in need of treatment. What happens when the number goes up to 10 million, maybe even 100 million, and among them there are patients who will need high doses?
Maybe we will need Manhattan projects for antibodies, and even a giant mega project, across Manhattan. Carnley Norman estimates we will need about 300 USD 1 billion super plants to be able to produce enough antibodies for the pandemic. And that’s what doesn’t exist in our world.
“If the pandemic is completely unregulated, we will have problems “, Hansen said. “Is there a question of whether scale of production can keep up with a pandemic outbreak? “. In the absence of enough medicine for everyone, governments and doctors will have to make the choice to save lives and protect whom first.
Antibodies may be preferred for severe cases and doctors on the frontline against epidemics. It is estimated that about one tenth of patients will be given priority, and we can provide enough.
The question now is when will we have antibodies against COVID-19?
“We are under control for both the efficacy and safety of the antigensLiusong Yin, head of the COVID-19 drug hunt race now GenScript said a bio-research company with 50 employees in China.
Therefore, antibody development time may correspond to the time we have a vaccine. The pandemic is complicated now, but that means if we get both antibodies and vaccines at the same time, it will be a double counterattack.
Even so, the virus will always change. Yin said that if the virus was to transform, we would need more complex antibodies to attack it at three or four weak spots at the same time. And in severe cases of COVID-19, he worries that antibodies can sometimes make patients worse if it triggers immune storms in their bodies.
Faced with such concerns, some have argued that scientists and biotech companies should not make overly optimistic statements. The problem is that we don’t even understand this new strain of corona virus yet. The mysteries about it have yet to be revealed, including the most vulnerable and why are they so vulnerable?
However, on the way to find a product that will meet the largest patient market in the history of infectious diseases, biotechnology companies seem to be quickly holding their lights ahead of science.
In an editorial , Holden Thorp, editor of Science magazine, compared the development of treatment for COVID-19 to that of “Fixing an airplane in flight while its blueprint is still being drawn.
He knows that those attempts can fail: “I am very concerned that science might overestimate what can be put in place to deal with COVID-19.“But what can we really do about it? Many will agree that developing antibodies and COVID-19 treatments from now on are the right choice.
We would rather do something than sit and accept our destiny.