Bharat Biotech eyes human monoclonal antibody therapy for Covid-19
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has sanctioned a project led by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech to develop human monoclonal antibodies as a therapy for Covid-19 in the next six months.
The project was approved under CSIR’s flagship programme, New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI). Apart from Bharat Biotech, one of India’s major vaccine manufacturers, the project brings together academia – the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) in Pune and the Indian Institute of Technology in Indore – and industry players such as PredOmix Technologies in Gurgaon.
Lab-grown antibodies have been shown to block coronaviurs infections in laboratories in the Netherlands and Israel, and could emerge as a critical tool to stop the spread of the disease. Monoclonal antibodies are man-made proteins that act like natural antibodies and work by identifying and binding to the virus to destroy it.
CSIR’s project is aimed at creating an alternate therapeutic regimen by generating highly effective and specific human monoclonal antibodies capable of neutralising SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
“Although efforts are underway for the development of drugs and vaccines for controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, these are slow and expensive processes with uncertainties. Therefore, an alternate therapeutic regimen for early deployment is critical,” Bharat Biotech said in a statement.
Bharat Biotech chairman Krishna Ella said: “The purpose of vaccination is to protect the healthy against future infections and it alone may not provide the complete solution. We feel monoclonal antibody therapy will provide a viable option. The question is of how to treat those individuals who are already infected?
“Plus, we do not yet know how effective an anti-SARS-CoV2 vaccine will be in elderly people and those with co-morbidities. Given the large number of Indians suffering from hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases, this becomes an important issue.”
Talking about the novel antibodies approach, Ella said: “While Israel and the Netherlands have recently announced the development of virus-neutralising antibodies, our approach is to develop a powerful cocktail of neutralising antibodies that can also simultaneously block mutational variants of the virus.
“We are fast-tracking the development process, to make the antibodies available within the next six months and thus improve the treatment efficacy.”
Ella said plasma therapy had shown some promise but inherent problems associated with the approach severely limited its wider use. Large-scale deployment of plasma therapy is limited by the availability of plasma. “There is also a challenge in carefully screening convalescent plasma for the presence of other infections that could be unwittingly transferred to the recipient,” he said.
NMITLI is the largest public-private-partnership effort under CSIR within the research and development domain in the country. It looks beyond today’s technology and seeks to build, capture and retain for India a leadership position by synergising the best competencies of publicly funded research institutions, academia and private industry.