Neutralizing Antibodies: Precision-guided Weapons against SARS-CoV-2
Credit: David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank
Monday, January 11, 2021
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Professor of Clinical Investigation
Laboratory of Molecular Immunology
The Rockefeller University
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently gripping the world in the absence of any clearly effective preventive or therapeutic remedies. Aside from the health consequences, the necessary decrease in human activity has resulted in economic losses and expanding social disparities without modern precedent, especially in countries where health care and social security systems were not sufficient even prior to the pandemic. Based on current experience with the other known coronaviruses, it is believed that a vaccine is possible. However, this remains to be proven and the length of time needed to have sufficient doses of a safe and successful vaccine is unknown. In addition, vaccines may not work as well in subsets of individuals who are at greatest risk to develop severe COVID-19. Antibodies are the active agents in most vaccines and have the added benefit of use as therapeutics when administered passively. We have identified a set of complementary human antibodies from individuals who recovered from COVID-19 and will test their ability to prevent or treat COVID-19 in clinical trials.
Marina Caskey, M.D., is a physician-scientist whose work focuses on the development and clinical evaluation of novel immunotherapeutic strategies against infectious diseases, with a special emphasis on HIV. She has led a series of early-phase clinical studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies. Dr. Caskey’s studies have revitalized this area of HIV research, which had been abandoned after first-generation antibodies failed to show significant effects in humans. Broadly neutralizing antibodies are now considered one of the most promising strategies to achieve HIV remission, as well as potential alternatives to antiretrovirals for both therapy and prevention. This year, Dr. Caskey has extended her focus to the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Part of a team heading COVID-19 clinical trials at The Rockefeller University Hospital, she is working to identify the antibodies from the plasma of COVID-19 survivors that have neutralized the virus.