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Covid-19 virus neutralising antibodies discovered by IONTAS with FairJourney Biologics

Pampisford-based IONTAS and its collaborator FairJourney Biologics have discovered a panel of potent antibodies that neutralise the Covid-19 virus in tests.

Viral neutralising antibodies could be used to treat symptomatic individuals following exposure to the coronavirus and as a preventative measure - a prophylactic - to protect healthcare workers and at-risk groups, including individuals who respond poorly to vaccines.

Dr John McCafferty, CSO and founder of IONTAS
Dr John McCafferty, CSO and founder of IONTAS

IONTAS, which is now part of the FairJourney Group, teamed up with the Portugal-based company to isolate and characterise - in just two months - hundreds of virus-neutralising antibodies from the blood of donors who were recovering from Covid-19.

The two contract research organisations have identified 15 optimally suited to clinical development and manufacturing. These have been shown to block infection by the SARS-CoV2 virus at doses as low as 20 picometres (pM) in pseudoviral assays and 100pM in live coronavirus assays, which matches or surpasses the best antibodies reported.

John McCafferty, chief scientific officer of IONTAS , said: “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, biopharmaceutical companies have demonstrated the capability and willingness to break boundaries in how we work together to benefit the global community. In so doing, extraordinary advances have been made on tight time scales.

“IONTAS and FairJourney Biologics’ achievement, which takes advantage of our efficiency and years of experience in antibody discovery, is a prime example of this.”

Antonio Parada, CEO of IONTAS and FairJourney Biologics, added: “We are proud of the work we have done to develop highly potent SARS-CoV2 neutralizing antibodies in such a short time.

“The viral neutralising effect of these antibodies position them to be able to both block and treat infection. Our next step is to identify partners with the expertise and ability to progress these promising assets into the clinic, with an aim to develop a treatment for Covid-19.”

Antibody therapies could give clinicians more therapeutic options in the fight against Covid-19, alongside vaccines and other medicines.

The project was undertaken as part of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) Antibody Task Force, which developed an accelerated, multi-pronged assessment approach to create and identify the best antibodies within months.

The BIA coalition includes organisations from across the UK biotech community, including representatives from industry, academia and charities.

The partnership between IONTAS and FairJourney Biologics was announced in April. Off the back of it, the following month the two CROs announced they were combining their operations.

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