Researchers at the Department of Biotechnology of Technische Universität Braunschweig started a research project to develop novel antibody based therapy for coronavirus infections. To increase the chances of success, the international consortium pursues several parallel approaches of antibody-based therapies against the lung disease COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus. The research team of the Department of Biotechnology at TU Braunschweig will be responsible for the development of human antibodies, working in close cooperation with partners in Sweden, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.
The consortium “ATAC” (Antibody Therapy Against Coronavirus) will be financed by the European Union with about 3 Million euro. In total, the European Commission has allocated 47 Million euro to 136 laboratories in 17 teams for the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapies for COVID-19.
Antibodies for therapy have been in use for 125 years, because in contrast to conventional vaccines, they can be also used for the treatment of patients that are already ill. Emil von Behring was the first to use this therapeutic approach against diphtheria, which yielded him the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1901. From that date until today antisera from horses are still used for this type of therapy in most cases. In contrast, at TU Braunschweig, human antibodies will be generated with a technology called antibody phage display. This approach allows to generate human antibodies entirely in the test tube. Because this method also provides the molecular blueprint of these antibodies right away, they can be produced in cell culture in unlimited amounts and very high quality. Professor Stefan Dübel, head of the department of Biotechnology, an inventor of this technology, Professor Michael Hust, the principle investigator of this project, and their team have many years of experience in the development of neutralizing antibodies against viruses like Marburg virus, Ebola and HIV.
The development of therapeutic antibodies against COVID-19 is expected to take several months to a year, in particular because of necessary efficacy and safety tests.