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Finding A Cure: Texas Research Lab Confirms Drug Blocks Coronavirus In Human Cells

TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A Texas lab is part of a worldwide effort closing in on a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

It was one of three to confirm that multiple Centivax antibody therapeutic drugs are potent neutralizers of the pandemic coronavirus, according to the therapeutics company.

Viral neutralization shows that the antibodies can completely block the novel coronavirus from infecting human cells. The possible treatment with antibodies used to treat SARS, that could one day be used to help cure coronavirus patients, has yet to be tested in actual humans.

"Our lab tested a panel of antibodies against a real SARS-CoV-2 in biocontainment. We were pleased to see very good neutralizing activity for some antibodies. We are working on their testing in vivo, and I hope to see protection soon," said Dr. Alex Bukreyev at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Galveston National Laboratory.

The discovery is positive movement in the eyes of scientists racing toward potential treatments, even a cure for the disease.

"Independent validation is a cornerstone of good science," said Dr. Jacob Glanville, Founder, CEO, and President of Centivax and Distributed Bio. "We sent our antibodies out to three world-class laboratories to ensure that independent groups, using different people, samples, equipment, and experimental designs, would all come to the same robust conclusion: that we had generated highly potent neutralizing antibodies that could be used to treat the novel coronavirus."

Glanville has spoken about the potential treatment on Dr.Phil, and numerous other news outlets.

More than 1,200 people across 44 nations donated to help make the discovery and characterization of the antibodies that prevent infection possible.

"We are pleased to find that the Centivax antibodies prevent infection by lentiviruses pseudotyped with the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and hope that these antibodies will assist in the development of therapeutics and vaccines," said Dr. Peter S. Kim, the Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University and Lead Investigator of the Infectious Disease Initiative at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

Scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) are also testing the antibodies for their ability to prevent the coronavirus from infecting human cells.

"We are still in the early stages of evaluating these monoclonal antibodies, but the preliminary results are promising," said Dr. Jay Hooper, who is leading the USAMRIID effort. "The plaque reduction neutralization test, or PRNT, data indicate a subset of these antibodies have potent neutralizing activity against live SARS-CoV-2. I look forward to further evaluation of these lead candidates in cell culture and in animal models."

Centivax was "founded to treat and eradicate the remaining pathogens of the 21st century," according to its mission statement. It took them less than nine weeks to successfully engineer the potent therapeutic antibodies.

In addition to high affinity and potent neutralization, the antibodies were engineered for optimal therapeutic properties.

"These antibodies represent the cutting edge of modern antibody engineering. They are optimized for enhanced potency, thermostability, reduced immunogenicity, extended half-life, and enhanced safety. This makes them ideal therapeutic candidates for treating the novel pandemic coronavirus in both the hospital as well as prophylactic settings," said Dr. Glanville. "We have designed these molecules to fight the pandemic where it is needed most. Emergency COVID-19 patients. Medical staff. The elderly. The immunocompromised. Warfighters. From Ebola to Rabies, antibody therapeutics have repeatedly proven to be a powerful medicine to treat dangerous viruses, and with this new neutralization data, we can move forward with increased confidence that they will be effective to help end this viral threat as well."

In 2019, Centivax's universal vaccine technology was awarded a Gates Foundation Grand Challenge "End the Pandemic Threat" award and was featured in the Netflix documentary series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak.

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