Dr Jacob Glanville (pictured), a scientist in California, believes he has found a treatment or coronavirus using antibodies that neutralized SARS in 2002
Dr Jacob Glanville, CEO of Distributed Bio, is perhaps best known as one of the physicians on the Netflix documentary Pandemic.
‘We are happy to announce we have completed the engineering and we have some very potent antibodies that can be effective against the virus,’ Dr Glanville said.
He told Radio New Zealand that his team used five antibodies that neutralized SARS in 2002, and adapted them to attack COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The new coronavirus, the strain of which is known as SARS-CoV-2, falls under a family of coronaviruses.
They can cause symptoms ranging from severe breathing problems to mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
Coronavirus is believed to be milder than its cousin, SARS, and it takes longer for symptoms to appear.
But, because they’re cousins, Dr Glanville says the antibodies that fight against one virus likely work agains the other.
‘So what we’ve done is we’ve created hundreds of millions of versions of those antibodies,’ he told Radio New Zealand.
‘We’ve mutated them a bit, and in that pool of mutated versions, we found versions that cross them over.
‘This makes them suitable medicines that one could use once they’ve gone through human testing to treat the virus.’
Dr Glanville said the antibodies bind to S-proteins, which the virus use to enter cells in the body.
”Antibodies are attractive because you can give them to a patient right when they’re in the hospital like an antiviral,’ he said.
‘You can also give them to doctors, you could give them to the elderly people to prevent them from getting sick.’
His team at Distributed Bio adapted five antibodies to attack the new virus, which is a cousin of SARS. The drug binds to S-proteins, which the virus use to enter cells in the body. Pictured: Dr Glanville with a colleague, left, and in Netflix’s Pandemic, right
The next step involves sending the antibodies to the military for confirmation testing and partnering with companies to speed up production. Pictured: Glanville (left) with one of his colleagues
Glanville hopes human trials can begin by the end of summer and released, if proven to be safe, in September. Pictured: EMTs wheel a sick patient to a waiting ambulance in New York City, March 28
‘Part of the reason we think we’re moving pretty fast is that instead of starting from scratch discovering an antibody, we went to these existing antibodies that were already extremely well characterized against SARS,’ he said.
‘And we’ve adapted them. So we’re piggybacking on two years of research.’
Dr Glanville calls the drug his ‘short-term’ vaccine but, unlike a true vaccine, the antibodies only protect someone for eight to 10 weeks.
The physician told Radio New Zealand that he’s trying to speed up manufacturing of the drug, which usually takes anywhere from nine to 12 months.
Dr Glanville said he and his colleagues are in contact with the US government about potentially conducting a study on the treatment’s usefulness.
Should a study be completed by the end of the summer showing efficacy and safety, the drug could be use for so-called compassionate use.
‘This is was used in the Ebola crisis. And it’s been used in other cases where if you have something that’s effective, and there’s no other good medicine, you can begin releasing it to the world for use prior to going through all the approval process,’ he told Radio New Zealand.
‘That could be as early as September. Unfortunately, that’s also as far away as September. So that’s as fast as we can conceive of having this medicine widely available.’
In the US, there are more than 181,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 3,600 deaths – more than any other country.