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Combating Coronavirus

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The road to making a vaccine.

Recently, the development of a coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) has been pervasive in the news (1). Following SARS in 2001 and MERS in 2015, nCoV is the third coronavirus outbreak in less than 20 years. (2,3) These outbreaks were the cause of 15,000 infections with mortality rates of up to 35%. Additionally, the economic impact of the 2003 SARS outbreak alone has been estimated at 40 billion USD. (4) Clearly, this group of viruses is posing an increasingly greater threat to human health and is having a greater social and economic impact than before. As such, it is becoming clear that developing a preventative vaccine in a similar pipeline to the seasonal flu vaccine may be necessary to control future coronavirus outbreaks.

In the past few years, there have been studies on the importance of limiting the amount of immunopathology as a result of a hyper-stimulated response. Specifically, animal studies working towards developing a SARS vaccine have demonstrated that a Th2 polarizing adjuvant may lead to eosinophilic immunopathology and a Th1 response may be less damaging to the host and more protective. (5)

On January 13th this year a South Korean group published work on the development of MERS specific neutralizing antibodies. (6) The group identified key residues susceptible to mutation in the receptor binding domain of MERS that could be distinguished by use of specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). More importantly however, they generated a mAb that efficiently neutralized pseudoviral particles expressing a broad range of isolated MERS receptors. Comparing the key epitopes in the MERS receptor may prove to be crucial in developing either a pan-coronavirus vaccine or for designing outbreak specific vaccines.

Understanding the structure of proteins is key for developing specific mAb. In turn, mAbs are important in determining the role of specific epitopes of viral particles, and developing diagnostics and therapeutics. We at MediMabs specialize in developing monoclonal antibodies for all your needs, do not hesitate to contact.