Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Sorrento working with Mount Sinai and UTMB to develop COVID-19 antibody treatment

By David Schwartz
Published: May 12th, 2020

A large number of research collaborations have formed in a race to to develop antibodies that can neutralize SARS-CoV-2, but some scientists have warned that most of these efforts target the virus’s spike protein, which they worry could be sidestepped by the virus.

Sorrento Therapeutics has a plan for addressing that concern, and it has teamed up with New York-based Mount Sinai Health System to achieve it. Instead of targeting just one point on the spike protein, the partners pan to invent an antibody cocktail that binds to three different “epitopes,” or regions of the protein.

“If one epitope mutates and one of the antibodies does not do its job anymore, the other two can do the job,” explained Henry Ji, PhD, CEO of Sorrento. “They are synergistic.”

The therapy, which Sorrento has dubbed COVI-SHIELD, started with a diagnostic test developed at Mount Sinai that was used to screen 15,000 people who were believed to have recovered from COVID-19. Sorrento’s scientists are using those samples to identify a few dozen antibodies that stand the best chance of completely neutralizing the virus, Ji said.

Once those antibodies are isolated, the pharma company will work with scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who will test the antibodies against the live virus. “We’re looking for 100% total inhibition of viral infection,” Ji said. After the top few contenders are selected, Sorrento will work with Mount Sinai to conduct further analysis.

Mount Sinai may also serve as a clinical testing site for COVI-SHIELD, which the company aims to move into phase 1 clinical trials in the third quarter.

Ji expressed confidence that Sorrento and its academic collaborators will be able to work quickly to discover an effective cocktail of neutralizing antibodies. “The Mount Sinai collaboration is very important for us, because they screened 15,000 samples and picked the highest-protected people,” Ji said. “We expect to be able isolate very potent antibodies.”

Source: FierceBiotech

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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