The global outbreak of COVID-19 was declared a pandemic over a year ago. Since then, medical and biotechnological topics such as side effects and supply issues of vaccines have become more mainstream than ever before.
In spite of their key role in our collective fight against COVID-19, the public awareness remains relatively oblivious of antibodies.
To counter that unduly trend, this article will shed light on how antibody expression benefits us in times of COVID-19.
The importance of monoclonal and recombinant antibody expression during the COVID-19 pandemic lies in its broad range of applications in the field of medicine and biotechnology.
One pillar in the fight against the pandemic is the production of lateral flow test kits (rapid tests). It relies on antibodies against viral proteins. These tests work through the detection of viral proteins using specific antibodies.
Subsequently, the binding of viral proteins to the antibodies is visualized, so that an asymptomatic infection can be detected.
The second pillar is the direct fight against infection using therapeutic monoclonal and recombinant antibodies as therapeutics.
Therapeutic antibodies work by supporting the immune responses at various levels. First, they bind virus particles to prevent them from spreading in the tissue. Additionally, antibodies recruit natural killer cells to dispose of them. This process is termed antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC).
Recent research in antibody engineering has shown that the ADCC pathway depends on the nature of antibody glycosylation, which varies from person to person.
Scientists found that glycosylation patterns lacking core fucosylation increase ADCC significantly, making these antibodies probably more potent with possible reductions in side effects.
These facts poise ADCC enhanced antibodies to become very promising therapeutic tools in the fight against COVID-19 and other viral infectious diseases.
Afucosylated antibodies are interesting entities for novel treatment regimes. Additionally, they are subject of basic research in pathophysiology.
In a recent publication in the prestigious journal Science1, researchers from the Netherlands report their findings on the biology of afucosylated antibodies in patients suffering from COVID-19.
They found that patients with severe symptoms had elevated levels of afucosylated antibodies against virus antigens, compared to patients with mild disease.
Furthermore, they surmise that such increased levels of afucosylated antibodies lead to an excessive immune response in some patients, thus exacerbating their condition.
This is a significant finding in and of itself. Additionally, it proves the importance of afucosylated antibodies in the development of more potent therapeutics where a strong immune response is desirable, e. g. cancer and HIV.
The biggest player in the fight against viral diseases, from a public health standpoint, are vaccines. A sufficient density of fully vaccinated individuals in a population prevents the runaway spreading of an infection.
However, as we now experience in some regions, the vaccine production capacities cannot satisfy the demand.
Therefore, administrations must rely on identification and subsequent isolation of infected persons by means of IVD (in vitro diagnostics). IVD across populations requires large amounts of high quality antibodies, which creates a big demand on antibody expression services.
In a medical emergency like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, rapid actions are required. The establishment of ways to identify and isolate asymptomatic spreaders is of utmost importance.
The development and production of antigen tests depends on a reliable source of high quality antibodies in sufficient quantity.
Once suitable expression vectors are designed and optimized, e. g. by means of phage display technology, recombinant protein expression in CHO cells can commence in mere weeks.
Thus, when speed and reliability are needed, antibody expression services like evitria are poised to satisfy all requirements in such collective efforts.