TAU Researchers Fighting Covid-19

U.S. patent for vaccine design and success in antibody-based therapies.

The JEWISH WEEK | June 2020 | By Staff Report

In their fight against Covid-19, researchers at Tel Aviv University have been awarded a U.S. patent for an innovative vaccine design for the corona family of viruses, and a university laboratory reports it has successfully isolated two antibodies that would neutralize the virus’ ability to infect human cells. 

The patent from United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was granted to TAU Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. Approved in March, it is for a vaccine that targets the most vulnerable point in a coronavirus’ structure — its Receptor Binding Motif (RBM) — through which it penetrates human cells. The Swiss-based biopharmaceutical company, NEOVII, is working with TAU to develop the vaccine.

Prof. Jonathan Gershoni
Dr. Natalia Freund

“We have been working on coronaviruses for the last 15 years, developing a method of reconstructing and reconstituting the RBM feature of the spike protein in SARS CoV and subsequently in MERS CoV,” explains Prof. Gershoni. “The moment the genome of the new virus was published in early January 2020, we began the process of reconstituting the RBM of SARS CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and expect to have a reconstituted RBM of the new virus soon. This will be the basis for a new vaccine, which could be ready for use within a year to a year and a half.”

The two suitable antibodies were identified in patients recovering from Covid-19, according to Dr. Natalia Freund who heads the Laboratory for Human Antibody Responses at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

“The use of antibodies bears significant potential as a treatment for high-risk coronavirus patients and as a preventative measure for at-risk groups, like medical workers and essential employees, exposed to the virus,” she explains.

In the long run, identifying effective antibodies against virus neutralization could also accelerate the development of vaccines for the disease.

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