First Results from Rockefeller Study of Convalescent Plasma from 149 COVID-19 Survivors Reveal 40 Neutralizing Antibodies from the 1% “Elite” Responders; Of These, Three Most Highly Potent Are Selected, Cloned, and Now Being Prepared for Clinical Use

In a May 25, 2020 release, The Rockefeller University announced that the first round of results from an immunological study of 149 people who have recovered from COVID-19 show that, although the amount of antibodies they generated varies widely, most individuals had generated at least some antibodies that were intrinsically capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Antibodies vary widely in their efficacy. While many may latch on to the virus, only some are truly “neutralizing,” meaning that they bind to the virus at a position that blocks it from entering the cells. Since April 1, 2020, a team of immunologists, medical scientists, and virologists, has been collecting blood samples from volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19. The majority of the samples the scientist have studied showed poor to modest “neutralizing activity,” indicating a weak antibody response. However, a closer look revealed everyone’s immune system is capable of generating effective antibodies—just not necessarily enough of them. Even when neutralizing antibodies were not present in an individual’s serum in large quantities, researchers could find some rare immune cells that make them. “This suggests just about everybody can do this, which is very good news for vaccines,” says Michel C. Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at The Rockefeller University. “It means if you were able to create a vaccine that elicits these particular antibodies, then the vaccine is likely to be effective and work for a lot of people.” Moreover, the researchers identified three distinct antibodies that were shown to be the most potent, of all those tested, in neutralizing the virus. The scientists are working to develop these three antibodies further into therapeutic and preventive drugs.
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