The University is to begin working with Imperial College London on a project to develop antibodies that target the novel coronavirus and thereby help create a new therapy for COVID-19, which is caused by the virus SARS-2-CoV
Antibodies are produced by the body’s immune system that recognise viruses like SARS-2-CoV and bind to such structures as those on the surface of a virus (Spike proteins), to block the virus entry and instruct the immune system to destroy it.
A panel of antibodies that might bind to proteins from the SARS-2-CoV coronavirus have already been identified from people infected with the 2003 SARS coronavirus. These antibodies bind to highly pathogenic coronaviruses, including SARS-2-CoV.
The research will seek to develop a potential antibody therapy, with the aim of progressing the therapy to be ready for clinical trials. These trials will determine if the developed therapies can treat coronavirus infections including COVID-19.
For this project, Kent will be working alongside Hong Kong University and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, as well as Imperial College.
Positive results from this research could include vital breakthroughs in actions against the virus, putting the NHS in a stronger position via access to potential antibody therapeutics.
Kent’s Principal Investigator Dr Nigel Temperton, based in the Medway School of Pharmacy said of the project: ‘I am very excited to be part of this consortium where I will be using SARS-2-CoV pseudotypes (safe mimics of the real virus) to screen panels of antibodies for those that can cross-react with a range of pathogenic coronaviruses including those responsible for COVID-19.’
Professor Philippe De Wilde, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation at Kent said: ‘The University of Kent has very strong research groups in Pharmacy (Medway School of Pharmacy, joint with the University of Greenwich) and Biosciences. These groups are focusing their efforts on helping the NHS and government agencies during the current crisis. The University of Kent has supported this research for years, and I am glad that we have the knowledge and the researchers available to contribute to the national effort.’