Archive for the ‘Immunology’ Category

Inhibitory CD161 receptor recognized as a potential immunotherapy target in glioma-infiltrating T cells by single-cell analysis

Reporter: Dr. Premalata Pati, Ph.D., Postdoc


Brain tumors, especially the diffused Gliomas are of the most devastating forms of cancer and have so-far been resistant to immunotherapy. It is comprehended that T cells can penetrate the glioma cells, but it still remains unknown why infiltrating cells miscarry to mount a resistant reaction or stop the tumor development.

Gliomas are brain tumors that begin from neuroglial begetter cells. The conventional therapeutic methods including, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, have accomplished restricted changes inside glioma patients. Immunotherapy, a compliance in cancer treatment, has introduced a promising strategy with the capacity to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. This has been recognized since the spearheading revelation of lymphatics within the central nervous system. Glioma is not generally carcinogenic. As observed in a number of cases, the tumor cells viably reproduce and assault the adjoining tissues, by and large, gliomas are malignant in nature and tend to metastasize. There are four grades in glioma, and each grade has distinctive cell features and different treatment strategies. Glioblastoma is a grade IV glioma, which is the crucial aggravated form. This infers that all glioblastomas are gliomas, however, not all gliomas are glioblastomas.

Decades of investigations on infiltrating gliomas still take off vital questions with respect to the etiology, cellular lineage, and function of various cell types inside glial malignancies. In spite of the available treatment options such as surgical resection, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, the average survival rate for high-grade glioma patients remains 1–3 years (1).

A recent in vitro study performed by the researchers of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, USA, has recognized that CD161 is identified as a potential new target for immunotherapy of malignant brain tumors. The scientific team depicted their work in the Cell Journal, in a paper entitled, “Inhibitory CD161 receptor recognized in glioma-infiltrating T cells by single-cell analysis.” on 15th February 2021.

To further expand their research and findings, Dr. Kai Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD, Chief of the Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, at Dana-Farber stated that their research is additionally important in a number of other major human cancer types such as 

  • melanoma,
  • lung,
  • colon, and
  • liver cancer.

Dr. Wucherpfennig has praised the other authors of the report Mario Suva, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts Common Clinic; Aviv Regev, PhD, of the Klarman Cell Observatory at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and David Reardon, MD, clinical executive of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber.

Hence, this new study elaborates the effectiveness of the potential effectors of anti-tumor immunity in subsets of T cells that co-express cytotoxic programs and several natural killer (NK) cell genes.

The Study-

IMAGE SOURCE: Experimental Strategy (Mathewson et al., 2021)


The group utilized single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to mull over gene expression and the clonal picture of tumor-infiltrating T cells. It involved the participation of 31 patients suffering from diffused gliomas and glioblastoma. Their work illustrated that the ligand molecule CLEC2D activates CD161, which is an immune cell surface receptor that restrains the development of cancer combating activity of immune T cells and tumor cells in the brain. The study reveals that the activation of CD161 weakens the T cell response against tumor cells.

Based on the study, the facts suggest that the analysis of clonally expanded tumor-infiltrating T cells further identifies the NK gene KLRB1 that codes for CD161 as a candidate inhibitory receptor. This was followed by the use of 

  • CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to inactivate the KLRB1 gene in T cells and showed that CD161 inhibits the tumor cell-killing function of T cells. Accordingly,
  • genetic inactivation of KLRB1 or
  • antibody-mediated CD161 blockade

enhances T cell-mediated killing of glioma cells in vitro and their anti-tumor function in vivo. KLRB1 and its associated transcriptional program are also expressed by substantial T cell populations in other forms of human cancers. The work provides an atlas of T cells in gliomas and highlights CD161 and other NK cell receptors as immune checkpoint targets.

Further, it has been identified that many cancer patients are being treated with immunotherapy drugs that disable their “immune checkpoints” and their molecular brakes are exploited by the cancer cells to suppress the body’s defensive response induced by T cells against tumors. Disabling these checkpoints lead the immune system to attack the cancer cells. One of the most frequently targeted checkpoints is PD-1. However, recent trials of drugs that target PD-1 in glioblastomas have failed to benefit the patients.

In the current study, the researchers found that fewer T cells from gliomas contained PD-1 than CD161. As a result, they said, “CD161 may represent an attractive target, as it is a cell surface molecule expressed by both CD8 and CD4 T cell subsets [the two types of T cells engaged in response against tumor cells] and a larger fraction of T cells express CD161 than the PD-1 protein.”

However, potential side effects of antibody-mediated blockade of the CLEC2D-CD161 pathway remain unknown and will need to be examined in a non-human primate model. The group hopes to use this finding in their future work by

utilizing their outline by expression of KLRB1 gene in tumor-infiltrating T cells in diffuse gliomas to make a remarkable contribution in therapeutics related to immunosuppression in brain tumors along with four other common human cancers ( Viz. melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), hepatocellular carcinoma, and colorectal cancer) and how this may be manipulated for prevalent survival of the patients.


(1) Anders I. Persson, QiWen Fan, Joanna J. Phillips, William A. Weiss, 39 – Glioma, Editor(s): Sid Gilman, Neurobiology of Disease, Academic Press, 2007, Pages 433-444, ISBN 9780120885923, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012088592-3/50041-4.

Main Source

Mathewson ND, Ashenberg O, Tirosh I, Gritsch S, Perez EM, Marx S, et al. 2021. Inhibitory CD161 receptor identified in glioma-infiltrating T cells by single-cell analysis. Cell.https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00065-9?elqTrackId=c3dd8ff1d51f4aea87edd0153b4f2dc7

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Other related articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:


Single Cell Sequencing:

Part 4.1 in Genomics Volume 2

Latest in Genomics Methodologies for Therapeutics: Gene Editing, NGS & BioInformatics, Simulations and the Genome Ontology 

On Amazon.com since 12/28/2019



4.1.3   Single-cell Genomics: Directions in Computational and Systems Biology – Contributions of Prof. Aviv Regev @Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cochair, the Human Cell Atlas Organizing Committee with Sarah Teichmann of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



4.1.4   Cellular Genetics



4.1.5   Cellular Genomics



4.1.6   SINGLE CELL GENOMICS 2019 – sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, September 24-26, 2019, Djurönäset, Stockholm, Sweden http://www.weizmann.ac.il/conferences/SCG2019/single-cell-genomics-2019

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



4.1.7   Norwich Single-Cell Symposium 2019, Earlham Institute, single-cell genomics technologies and their application in microbial, plant, animal and human health and disease, October 16-17, 2019, 10AM-5PM

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



4.1.8   Newly Found Functions of B Cell

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.






CRISPR – 200 articles in the Journal


Chapter 21 in Genomics Volume 1

Genomics Orientations for Personalized Medicine. On Amazon.com since 11/23/2015



Glioblastoma – 150 articles in the Journal

Most recent


Immunotherapy may help in glioblastoma survival

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.



New Treatment in Development for Glioblastoma: Hopes for Sen. John McCain

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



Funding Oncorus’s Immunotherapy Platform: Next-generation Oncolytic Herpes Simplex Virus (oHSV) for Brain Cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



Glioma, Glioblastoma and Neurooncology

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP



Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Near-Infrared Fluorescence Imaging:  Noninvasive Imaging of Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs)  monitoring of AC133+ glioblastoma in subcutaneous and intracerebral xenograft tumors

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) as a Therapeutic tool in the Management of Glioblastoma

Eric Fine* (1), Mike Briggs* (1,2), Raphael Nir# (1,2,3)




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Connecting the Immune Response to Amyloid-β Aggregation in Alzheimer’s Disease via IFITM3

Reporter : Irina Robu, PhD

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex condition and it begins with slow aggregation of amyloid-β deposits over the course of years. This produces a mild cognitive impairment and a state of chronic inflammation enough to trigger harmful aggregation of the altered tau protein. Clearing amyloid-β from the brain hasn’t produced telling benefits to patients suggesting that it is not the key process in the development of the condition.

Recent research indicates that beta-amyloid has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, indicating a possible link between the immune response against infections and development of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have discovered evidence that protein interferon-induced transmembrane protein 3 (IFITM3) is involved in immune response to pathogens and play a key role in the accumulation of beta amyloid in plaques. IFITM3 is able to alter the activity of gamma-secretase enzyme, which breaks down the precursor proteins into fragments of beta-amyloid that make up plaques. 

Yet it was determined that the production of IFITM3 starts in reply to activation of the immune system by invading viruses and bacteria. Indeed, researchers found that the level of IFITM3 in human brain samples correlated with levels of certain viral infections as well as with gamma-secretase activity and beta-amyloid production. Age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s and the levels of both inflammatory markers and IFITM3 increased with advancing age in mice.

Innate immunity is also correlated with Alzheimer’s disease1, but the influence of immune activation on the production of amyloid beta is unknown. They were able to identify IFITM3 as γ-secretase modulatory protein, and establish a mechanism by which inflammation affects the generation of amyloid-β.

According to the current research, inflammatory cytokines induce the expression of IFITM3 in neurons and astrocytes, which binds to γ-secretase and upregulates its activity, thereby increasing the production of amyloid-β. The expression of IFITM3 is increased with ageing and in mouse models that express Alzheimer’s disease genes. IFITM3 protein is upregulated in tissue samples from a subset of patients with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease that exhibit higher γ-secretase activity. The amount of IFITM3 in the γ-secretase complex has a strong and positive correlation with γ-secretase activity in samples from patients with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. These conclusions disclose a mechanism in which γ-secretase is controlled by neuroinflammation via IFITM3 and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is thus amplified



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Did FDA Reverse Course on Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD


Starting with a timeline of recent announcements by the FDA on convalescent plasma therapy

April 16, 2020


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Encourages Recovered Patients to Donate Plasma for Development of Blood-Related Therapies


As part of the all-of-America approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working with partners across the U.S. government, academia and industry to expedite the development and availability of critical medical products to treat this novel virus. Today, we are providing an update on one potential treatment called convalescent plasma and encouraging those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma to help others fight this disease.

Convalescent plasma is an antibody-rich product made from blood donated by people who have recovered from the disease caused by the virus. Prior experience with respiratory viruses and limited data that have emerged from China suggest that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of illness caused by COVID-19. It is important that we evaluate this potential therapy in the context of clinical trials, through expanded access, as well as facilitate emergency access for individual patients, as appropriate.

The response to the agency’s recently announced national efforts to facilitate the development of and access to convalescent plasma has been tremendous. More than 1,040 sites and 950 physician investigators nationwide have signed on to participate in the Mayo Clinic-led expanded access protocol. A number of clinical trials are also taking place to evaluate the safety and efficacy of convalescent plasma and the FDA has granted numerous single patient emergency investigational new drug (eIND) applications as well.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-encourages-recovered-patients-donate-plasma-development-blood

August 23, 2020


Recommendations for Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma


  • FDA issues guidelines on clinical trials and obtaining emergency enrollment concerning convalescent plasma

FDA has issued guidance to provide recommendations to health care providers and investigators on the administration and study of investigational convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 (COVID-19 convalescent plasma) during the public health emergency.

The guidance provides recommendations on the following:

Because COVID-19 convalescent plasma has not yet been approved for use by FDA, it is regulated as an investigational product.  A health care provider must participate in one of the pathways described below.  FDA does not collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma or provide COVID-19 convalescent plasma.  Health care providers or acute care facilities should instead obtain COVID-19 convalescent plasma from an FDA-registered blood establishment.

Excerpts from the guidance document are provided below.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) plays a critical role in protecting the United States (U.S.) from threats including emerging infectious diseases, such as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  FDA is committed to providing timely guidance to support response efforts to this pandemic.

One investigational treatment being explored for COVID-19 is the use of convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.  Convalescent plasma that contains antibodies to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is being studied for administration to patients with COVID-19. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.

Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be safe and effective as a treatment for COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to study the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in clinical trials.

Pathways for Use of Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma

The following pathways are available for administering or studying the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma:

  1. Clinical Trials

Investigators wishing to study the use of convalescent plasma in a clinical trial should submit requests to FDA for investigational use under the traditional IND regulatory pathway (21 CFR Part 312). CBER’s Office of Blood Research and Review is committed to engaging with sponsors and reviewing such requests expeditiously. During the COVID-19 pandemic, INDs may be submitted via email to CBERDCC_eMailSub@fda.hhs.gov.

  1. Expanded Access

An IND application for expanded access is an alternative for use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 disease who are not eligible or who are unable to participate in randomized clinical trials (21 CFR 312.305). FDA has worked with multiple federal partners and academia to open an expanded access protocol to facilitate access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma across the nation. Access to this investigational product may be available through participation of acute care facilities in an investigational expanded access protocol under an IND that is already in place.

Currently, the following protocol is in place: National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol

  1. Single Patient Emergency IND

Although participation in clinical trials or an expanded access program are ways for patients to obtain access to convalescent plasma, for various reasons these may not be readily available to all patients in potential need. Therefore, given the public health emergency that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, and while clinical trials are being conducted and a national expanded access protocol is available, FDA also is facilitating access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections through the process of the patient’s physician requesting a single patient emergency IND (eIND) for the individual patient under 21 CFR 312.310. This process allows the use of an investigational drug for the treatment of an individual patient by a licensed physician upon FDA authorization, if the applicable regulatory criteria are met.  Note, in such case, a licensed physician seeking to administer COVID-19 convalescent plasma to an individual patient must request the eIND (see 21 CFR 312.310(b)).

To Obtain a Single Patient Emergency IND  

The requesting physician may contact FDA by completing Form FDA 3926 (https://www.fda.gov/media/98616/download) and submitting the form by email to CBER_eIND_Covid-19@FDA.HHS.gov.


  • FDA issues fact sheet for patients on donating plasma

August 23, 2020


FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Convalescent Plasma as Potential Promising COVID–19 Treatment, Another Achievement in Administration’s Fight Against Pandemic


Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19. Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded, as outlined in its decision memorandum, this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

Today’s action follows the FDA’s extensive review of the science and data generated over the past several months stemming from efforts to facilitate emergency access to convalescent plasma for patients as clinical trials to definitively demonstrate safety and efficacy remain ongoing.

The EUA authorizes the distribution of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in the U.S. and its administration by health care providers, as appropriate, to treat suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary:
“The FDA’s emergency authorization for convalescent plasma is a milestone achievement in President Trump’s efforts to save lives from COVID-19,” said Secretary Azar. “The Trump Administration recognized the potential of convalescent plasma early on. Months ago, the FDA, BARDA, and private partners began work on making this product available across the country while continuing to evaluate data through clinical trials. Our work on convalescent plasma has delivered broader access to the product than is available in any other country and reached more than 70,000 American patients so far. We are deeply grateful to Americans who have already donated and encourage individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating convalescent plasma.”

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., FDA Commissioner:
“I am committed to releasing safe and potentially helpful treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible in order to save lives. We’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen about convalescent plasma. The data from studies conducted this year shows that plasma from patients who’ve recovered from COVID-19 has the potential to help treat those who are suffering from the effects of getting this terrible virus,” said Dr. Hahn. “At the same time, we will continue to work with researchers to continue randomized clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma in treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus.”

Scientific Evidence on Convalescent Plasma

Based on an evaluation of the EUA criteria and the totality of the available scientific evidence, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research determined that the statutory criteria for issuing an EUA criteria were met.

The FDA determined that it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients. The agency also determined that the known and potential benefits of the product, when used to treat COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product and that that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternative treatments.


August 24, 2020

Donate COVID-19 Plasma


  • FDA posts video and blog about how to donate plasms if you had been infected with COVID





Please go to https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/donate-covid-19-plasma

to read more from FDA



August 25, 2020


CLINICAL MEMORANDUM From: , OBRR/DBCD/CRS To: , OBRR Through: , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD , OBRR/DBCD/CRS Re: EUA 26382: Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Request (original request 8/12/20; amended request 8/23/20) Product: COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Items reviewed: EUA request Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers Fact Sheet for Recipients Sponsor: Robert Kadlec, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Office of Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP), an unapproved biological product, is proposed for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) under section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act),(21 USC 360bbb-3) as a passive immune therapy for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, a serious or life-threatening disease. There currently is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to CCP for treating COVID-19. The sponsor has pointed to four lines of evidence to support that CCP may be effective in the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19: 1) History of convalescent plasma for respiratory coronaviruses; 2) Evidence of preclinical safety and efficacy in animal models; 3) Published studies of the safety and efficacy of CCP; and 4) Data on safety and efficacy from the National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol (EAP) sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. Considering the totality of the scientific evidence presented in the EUA, I conclude that current data for the use of CCP in adult hospitalized patients with COVID-19 supports the conclusion that CCP meets the “may be effective” criterion for issuance of an EUA from section 564(c)(2)(A) of the Act. It is reasonable to conclude that the known and potential benefits of CCP outweigh the known and potential risks of CCP for the proposed EUA. Current data suggest the largest clinical benefit is associated with high-titer units of CCP administered early course of the disease.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/media/141480/download


And Today August 26, 2020

  • A letter, from Senator Warren, to Commissioner Hahn from Senate Committee asking for documentation for any communication between FDA and White House

August 25, 2020 Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. Commissioner of Food and Drugs U.S. Food and Drug Administration 10903 New Hampshire Avenue Silver Spring, MD 20993 Dear Commissioner Hahn: We write regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) troubling decision earlier this week to issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma as a treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1 Reports suggests that the FDA granted the EUA amid intense political pressure from President Trump and other Administration officials, despite limited evidence of convalescent plasma’s effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment.2 To help us better understand whether the issuance of the blood plasma EUA was motivated by politics, we request copies of any and all communications between FDA and White House officials regarding the blood plasma EUA.

Source: https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.08.25%20Letter%20to%20FDA%20re%20Blood%20Plasma%20EUA.pdf

…….. which may have been a response to this article

FDA chief walks back comments on effectiveness of coronavirus plasma treatment


From CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/25/fda-chief-walks-back-comments-on-effectiveness-of-coronavirus-plasma-treatment.html


Berkeley Lovelace Jr.@BERKELEYJR



  • The authorization will allow health-care providers in the U.S. to use the plasma to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19.
  • The FDA’s emergency use authorization came a day after President Trump accused the agency of delaying enrollment in clinical trials for vaccines or therapeutics.
  • The criticism from Trump and action from the FDA led some scientists to believe the authorization, which came on the eve of the GOP national convention, was politically motivated.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn is walking back comments on the benefits of convalescent plasma, saying he could have done a better job of explaining the data on its effectiveness against the coronavirus after authorizing it for emergency use over the weekend.

Commisioners responses over Twitter



August 26, 2020

In an interview with Bloomberg’s , FDA Commissioner Hahn reiterates that his decision was based on hard evidence and scientific fact, not political pressure.  The whole interview is at the link below:


Some key points:

  • Dr. Hahn corrected his initial statement about 35% of people would be cured by convalescent plasma. In the interview he stated:

I was trying to do what I do with patients, because patients often understand things in absolute terms versus relative terms. And I should’ve been more careful, there’s no question about it. What I was trying to get to is that if you look at a hundred patients who receive high titre, and a hundred patients who received low titre, the difference between those two particular subset of patients who had these specific criteria was a 35% reduction in mortality. So I frankly did not do a good job of explaining that.

  • FDA colleagues had frank discussion after the statement was made.  He is not asking for other people in HHS to retract their statements, only is concerned that FDA has correct information for physicians and patients
  • Hahn is worried that people will not enroll due to chance they may be given placebo
  • He gave no opinion when asked if FDA should be an independent agency


For more articles on COVID19 please go to our Coronavirus Portal at



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Novel SARS-CoV-2 sybodies

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Absolute Antibody Ltd., a leader of the market in recombinant antibody products announced a partnership with University of Zurich to offer synthetic nanobodies against the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2. Under the partnership, the original nanobodies and recently engineered formats are now accessible to the global research community for use as serological controls and in COVID-19 therapeutic development. The synthetic nanobodies hold a particular potential for the development of inhalable drugs, which could suggest a convenient treatment option for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The laboratory of Markus Seeger at University of Zurich designs a rapid in vitro selection platform to generate synthetic nanobodies, sybodies, against the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2. Within a two-week timeframe, the lab had recognized more than 60 unique anti-RBD sybodies from combinatorial display libraries. The sybodies are “designed to mimic the natural shape diversity of camelid nanobodies, consequently allowing for an optimal surface complementarity to the limited hydrophilic epitopes on membrane proteins. Due to their high thermal stabilities and low production costs, sybodies demonstrate a promise for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Sybodies are perfectly suited to trap intrinsically flexible membrane proteins and thereby facilitate structure determination by X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM. Additional research indicate that six of the sybodies bound SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with very high affinity, while five of those also inhibited ACE2, the host cell receptor to which SARS-CoV-2 binds to initiate the COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, two of the sybodies can at the same time bind the RBD, which could permit the construction of a polyvalent antiviral drug. The SARS-CoV-2 sybodies are therefore valuable tools for coronavirus research, diagnostics and therapeutic development.

Moreover, Absolute Antibody has used antibody engineering to fuse the nanobodies to Fc domains in different species, isotypes and subtypes. Absolute Antibody also offers supporting coronavirus research such as the production of gram quantities of human antibodies sequenced from recovering COVID-19 patients.




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RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus taking over the cells it infects: Virulence – Pathogen’s ability to infect a Resistant Host: The Imbalance between Controlling Virus Replication versus Activation of the Adaptive Immune Response

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN – I added colors and bold face


UPDATED on 9/8/2020

What bats can teach us about developing immunity to Covid-19 | Free to read

Clive Cookson, Anna Gross and Ian Bott, London



UPDATED on 6/29/2020

Another duality and paradox in the Treatment of COVID-19 Patients in ICUs was expressed by Mike Yoffe, MD, PhD, David H. Koch Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Yaffe has a joint appointment in Acute Care Surgery, Trauma, and Surgical Critical Care, and in Surgical Oncology @BIDMC

on 6/29 at SOLUTIONS with/in/sight at Koch Institute @MIT

How Are Cancer Researchers Fighting COVID-19? (Part II)” Jun 29, 2020 11:30 AM EST

Mike Yoffe, MD, PhD 

In COVID-19 patients: two life threatening conditions are seen in ICUs:

  • Blood Clotting – Hypercoagulability or Thrombophilia
  • Cytokine Storm – immuno-inflammatory response
  • The coexistence of 1 and 2 – HINDERS the ability to use effectively tPA as an anti-clotting agent while the cytokine storm is present.

Mike Yoffe’s related domain of expertise:

Signaling pathways and networks that control cytokine responses and inflammation

Misregulation of cytokine feedback loops, along with inappropriate activation of the blood clotting cascade causes dysregulation of cell signaling pathways in innate immune cells (neutrophils and macrophages), resulting in tissue damage and multiple organ failure following trauma or sepsis. Our research is focused on understanding the role of the p38-MK2 pathway in cytokine control and innate immune function, and on cross-talk between cytokines, clotting factors, and neutrophil NADPH oxidase-derived ROS in tissue damage, coagulopathy, and inflammation, using biochemistry, cell biology, and mouse knock-out/knock-in models.  We recently discovered a particularly important link between abnormal blood clotting and the complement pathway cytokine C5a which causes excessive production of extracellular ROS and organ damage by neutrophils after traumatic injury.





The Genome Structure of CORONAVIRUS, SARS-CoV-2

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



Imbalanced Host Response to SARS-CoV-2 Drives Development of COVID-19

Open Access Published:May 15, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.026


  • SARS-CoV-2 infection induces low IFN-I and -III levels with a moderate ISG response
  • Strong chemokine expression is consistent across in vitroex vivo, and in vivo models
  • Low innate antiviral defenses and high pro-inflammatory cues contribute to COVID-19


Viral pandemics, such as the one caused by SARS-CoV-2, pose an imminent threat to humanity. Because of its recent emergence, there is a paucity of information regarding viral behavior and host response following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here we offer an in-depth analysis of the transcriptional response to SARS-CoV-2 compared with other respiratory viruses. Cell and animal models of SARS-CoV-2 infection, in addition to transcriptional and serum profiling of COVID-19 patients, consistently revealed a unique and inappropriate inflammatory response. This response is defined by low levels of type I and III interferons juxtaposed to elevated chemokines and high expression of IL-6. We propose that reduced innate antiviral defenses coupled with exuberant inflammatory cytokine production are the defining and driving features of COVID-19.

Graphical Abstract



Defining the Transcriptional Response to SARS-CoV-2 Relative to Other Respiratory Viruses

To compare the transcriptional response of SARS-CoV-2 with other respiratory viruses, including MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV-1, human parainfluenza virus 3 (HPIV3), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and IAV, we first chose to focus on infection in a variety of respiratory cell lines (Figure 1). To this end, we collected poly(A) RNA from infected cells and performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to estimate viral load. These data show that virus infection levels ranged from 0.1% to more than 50% of total RNA reads (Figure 1A).


In the present study, we focus on defining the host response to SARS-CoV-2 and other human respiratory viruses in cell lines, primary cell cultures, ferrets, and COVID-19 patients. In general, our data show that the overall transcriptional footprint of SARS-CoV-2 infection was distinct in comparison with other highly pathogenic coronaviruses and common respiratory viruses such as IAV, HPIV3, and RSV. It is noteworthy that, despite a reduced IFN-I and -III response to SARS-CoV-2, we observed a consistent chemokine signature. One exception to this observation is the response to high-MOI infection in A549-ACE2 and Calu-3 cells, where replication was robust and an IFN-I and -III signature could be observed. In both of these examples, cells were infected at a rate to theoretically deliver two functional virions per cell in addition to any defective interfering particles within the virus stock that were not accounted for by plaque assays. Under these conditions, the threshold for PAMP may be achieved prior to the ability of the virus to evade detection through production of a viral antagonist. Alternatively, addition of multiple genomes to a single cell may disrupt the stoichiometry of viral components, which, in turn, may itself generate PAMPs that would not form otherwise. These ideas are supported by the fact that, at a low-MOI infection in A549-ACE2 cells, high levels of replication could also be achieved, but in the absence of IFN-I and -III induction. Taken together, these data suggest that, at low MOIs, the virus is not a strong inducer of the IFN-I and -III system, as opposed to conditions where the MOI is high.
Taken together, the data presented here suggest that the response to SARS-CoV-2 is imbalanced with regard to controlling virus replication versus activation of the adaptive immune response. Given this dynamic, treatments for COVID-19 have less to do with the IFN response and more to do with controlling inflammation. Because our data suggest that numerous chemokines and ILs are elevated in COVID-19 patients, future efforts should focus on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs that can be rapidly deployed and have immunomodulating properties.



SARS-CoV-2 ORF3b is a potent interferon antagonist whose activity is further increased by a naturally occurring elongation variant

Yoriyuki KonnoIzumi KimuraKeiya UriuMasaya FukushiTakashi IrieYoshio KoyanagiSo NakagawaKei Sato


One of the features distinguishing SARS-CoV-2 from its more pathogenic counterpart SARS-CoV is the presence of premature stop codons in its ORF3b gene. Here, we show that SARS-CoV-2 ORF3b is a potent interferon antagonist, suppressing the induction of type I interferon more efficiently than its SARS-CoV ortholog. Phylogenetic analyses and functional assays revealed that SARS-CoV-2-related viruses from bats and pangolins also encode truncated ORF3b gene products with strong anti-interferon activity. Furthermore, analyses of more than 15,000 SARS-CoV-2 sequences identified a natural variant, in which a longer ORF3b reading frame was reconstituted. This variant was isolated from two patients with severe disease and further increased the ability of ORF3b to suppress interferon induction. Thus, our findings not only help to explain the poor interferon response in COVID-19 patients, but also describe a possibility of the emergence of natural SARS-CoV-2 quasi-species with extended ORF3b that may exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms.


  • ORF3b of SARS-CoV-2 and related bat and pangolin viruses is a potent IFN antagonist

  • SARS-CoV-2 ORF3b suppresses IFN induction more efficiently than SARS-CoV ortholog

  • The anti-IFN activity of ORF3b depends on the length of its C-terminus

  • An ORF3b with increased IFN antagonism was isolated from two severe COVID-19 cases

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv






A deep dive into how the new coronavirus infects cells has found that it orchestrates a hostile takeover of their genes unlike any other known viruses do, producing what one leading scientist calls “unique” and “aberrant” changes.Recent studies show that in seizing control of genes in the human cells it invades, the virus changes how segments of DNA are read, doing so in a way that might explain why the elderly are more likely to die of Covid-19 and why antiviral drugs might not only save sick patients’ lives but also prevent severe disease if taken before infection.“It’s something I have never seen in my 20 years of” studying viruses, said virologist Benjamin tenOever of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, referring to how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, hijacks cells’ genomes.The “something” he and his colleagues saw is how SARS-CoV-2 blocks one virus-fighting set of genes but allows another set to launch, a pattern never seen with other viruses. Influenza and the original SARS virus (in the early 2000s), for instance, interfere with both arms of the body’s immune response — what tenOever dubs “call to arms” genes and “call for reinforcement” genes.The first group of genes produces interferons. These proteins, which infected cells release, are biological semaphores, signaling to neighboring cells to activate some 500 of their own genes that will slow down the virus’ ability to make millions of copies of itself if it invades them. This lasts seven to 10 days, tenOever said, controlling virus replication and thereby buying time for the second group of genes to act.This second set of genes produce their own secreted proteins, called chemokines, that emit a biochemical “come here!” alarm. When far-flung antibody-making B cells and virus-killing T cells sense the alarm, they race to its source. If all goes well, the first set of genes holds the virus at bay long enough for the lethal professional killers to arrive and start eradicating viruses.

“Most other viruses interfere with some aspect of both the call to arms and the call for reinforcements,” tenOever said. “If they didn’t, no one would ever get a viral illness”: The one-two punch would pummel any incipient infection into submission.

SARS-CoV-2, however, uniquely blocks one cellular defense but activates the other, he and his colleagues reported in a study published last week in Cell. They studied healthy human lung cells growing in lab dishes, ferrets (which the virus infects easily), and lung cells from Covid-19 patients. In all three, they found that within three days of infection, the virus induces cells’ call-for-reinforcement genes to produce cytokines. But it blocks their call-to-arms genes — the interferons that dampen the virus’ replication.

The result is essentially no brakes on the virus’s replication, but a storm of inflammatory molecules in the lungs, which is what tenOever calls an “unique” and “aberrant” consequence of how SARS-CoV-2 manipulates the genome of its target.

In another new study, scientists in Japan last week identified how SARS-CoV-2 accomplishes that genetic manipulation. Its ORF3b gene produces a protein called a transcription factor that has “strong anti-interferon activity,” Kei Sato of the University of Tokyo and colleagues found — stronger than the original SARS virus or influenza viruses. The protein basically blocks the cell from recognizing that a virus is present, in a way that prevents interferon genes from being expressed.

In fact, the Icahn School team found no interferons in the lung cells of Covid-19 patients. Without interferons, tenOever said, “there is nothing to stop the virus from replicating and festering in the lungs forever.”

That causes lung cells to emit even more “call-for-reinforcement” genes, summoning more and more immune cells. Now the lungs have macrophages and neutrophils and other immune cells “everywhere,” tenOever said, causing such runaway inflammation “that you start having inflammation that induces more inflammation.”

At the same time, unchecked viral replication kills lung cells involved in oxygen exchange. “And suddenly you’re in the hospital in severe respiratory distress,” he said.

In elderly people, as well as those with diabetes, heart disease, and other underlying conditions, the call-to-arms part of the immune system is weaker than in younger, healthier people, even before the coronavirus arrives. That reduces even further the cells’ ability to knock down virus replication with interferons, and imbalances the immune system toward the dangerous inflammatory response.

The discovery that SARS-CoV-2 strongly suppresses infected cells’ production of interferons has raised an intriguing possibility: that taking interferons might prevent severe Covid-19 or even prevent it in the first place, said Vineet Menachery of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

In a study of human cells growing in lab dishes, described in a preprint (not peer-reviewed or published in a journal yet), he and his colleagues also found that SARS-CoV-2 “prevents the vast amount” of interferon genes from turning on. But when cells growing in lab dishes received the interferon IFN-1 before exposure to the coronavirus, “the virus has a difficult time replicating.”

After a few days, the amount of virus in infected but interferon-treated cells was 1,000- to 10,000-fold lower than in infected cells not pre-treated with interferon. (The original SARS virus, in contrast, is insensitive to interferon.)

Ending the pandemic and preventing its return is assumed to require an effective vaccine to prevent infectionand antiviral drugs such as remdesivir to treat the very sick, but the genetic studies suggest a third strategy: preventive drugs.

It’s possible that treatment with so-called type-1 interferon “could stop the virus before it could get established,” Menachery said.

Giving drugs to healthy people is always a dicey proposition, since all drugs have side effects — something considered less acceptable than when a drug is used to treat an illness. “Interferon treatment is rife with complications,” Menachery warned. The various interferons, which are prescribed for hepatitis, cancers, and many other diseases, can cause flu-like symptoms.

But the risk-benefit equation might shift, both for individuals and for society, if interferons or antivirals or other medications are shown to reduce the risk of developing serious Covid-19 or even make any infection nearly asymptomatic.

Interferon “would be warning the cells the virus is coming,” Menachery said, so such pretreatment might “allow treated cells to fend off the virus better and limit its spread.” Determining that will of course require clinical trials, which are underway.

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A Series of Recently Published Papers Report the Development of SARS-CoV2 Neutralizing Antibodies and Passive Immunity toward COVID19

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.


Passive Immunity and Treatment of Infectious Diseases

The ability of one person to pass on immunity to another person (passive immunity) is one of the chief methods we develop immunity to many antigens.  For instance, maternal antibodies are passed to the offspring in the neonatal setting as well as in a mother’s milk during breast feeding.  In the clinical setting this is achieved by transferring antibodies from one patient who has been exposed to an antigen (like a virus) to the another individual.   However, the process of purifying the most efficacious antibody as well as its mass production is limiting due to its complexity and cost and can be prohibitively long delay during a pandemic outbreak, when therapies are few and needed immediately.  Regardless, the benefits of developing neutralizing antibodies to confer passive immunity versus development of a vaccine are evident, as the former takes considerable less time than development of a safe and effective vaccine.  For a good review on the development and use of neutralizing antibodies and the use of passive immunity to treat infectious diseases please read the following review:

Margaret A. Keller1,* and E. Richard Stiehm. Passive Immunity in Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000 Oct; 13(4): 602–614. doi: 10.1128/cmr.13.4.602-614.2000


Antibodies have been used for over a century in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. They are used most commonly for the prevention of measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, varicella, rabies, and vaccinia. Although their use in the treatment of bacterial infection has largely been supplanted by antibiotics, antibodies remain a critical component of the treatment of diptheria, tetanus, and botulism. High-dose intravenous immunoglobulin can be used to treat certain viral infections in immunocompromised patients (e.g., cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus infections). Antibodies may also be of value in toxic shock syndrome, Ebola virus, and refractory staphylococcal infections. Palivizumab, the first monoclonal antibody licensed (in 1998) for an infectious disease, can prevent respiratory syncytial virus infection in high-risk infants. The development and use of additional monoclonal antibodies to key epitopes of microbial pathogens may further define protective humoral responses and lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.


Summary of the efficacy of antibody in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases

Bacterial infections
 Respiratory infections (streptococcus, Streptococcus pneumoniaeNeisseria meningitisHaemophilus influenzae)
 Other clostridial infections
  C. botulinum
  C. difficile
 Staphylococcal infections
  Toxic shock syndrome
  Antibiotic resistance
  S. epidermidis in newborns
 Invasive streptococcal disease (toxic shock syndrome)
 High-risk newborns
 Shock, intensive care, and trauma
Pseudomonas infection
  Cystic Fibrosis
Viral diseases
 Hepatitis A
 Hepatitis B
 Hepatitis C
 HIV infection
 RSV infection
 Herpesvirus infections
 Parvovirus infection
 Enterovirus infection
  In newborns
 Tick-borne encephalitis

Go to:

A Great Explanation of Active versus Passive Immunity by Dr. John Campbell, one of the pioneers in the field of immunology:Antibodies have been used for over a century in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease. They are used most commonly for the prevention of measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, varicella, rabies, and vaccinia. Although their use in the treatment of bacterial infection has largely been supplanted by antibiotics, antibodies remain a critical component of the treatment of diptheria, tetanus, and botulism. High-dose intravenous immunoglobulin can be used to treat certain viral infections in immunocompromised patients (e.g., cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus infections). Antibodies may also be of value in toxic shock syndrome, Ebola virus, and refractory staphylococcal infections. Palivizumab, the first monoclonal antibody licensed (in 1998) for an infectious disease, can prevent respiratory syncytial virus infection in high-risk infants. The development and use of additional monoclonal antibodies to key epitopes of microbial pathogens may further define protective humoral responses and lead to new approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.


However, developing successful neutralizing antibodies can still be difficult but with the latest monoclonal antibody technology, as highlighted by the following papers, this process has made much more efficient.  In addition, it is not feasable to isolate antibodies from the plasma of covalescent patients in a scale that is needed for a worldwide outbreak.

A good explanation of the need can be found is Dr. Irina Robu’s post Race to develop antibody drugs for COVID-19 where:

When fighting off foreign invaders, our bodies make antibodies precisely produced for the task. The reason vaccines offer such long-lasting protection is they train the immune system to identify a pathogen, so immune cells remember and are ready to attack the virus when it appears. Monoclonal antibodies for coronavirus would take the place of the ones our bodies might produce to fight the disease. The manufactured antibodies would be infused into the body to either tamp down an existing infection, or to protect someone who has been exposed to the virus. However, these drugs are synthetic versions of the convalescent plasma treatments that rely on antibodies from people who have recovered from infection. But the engineered versions are easier to scale because they’re manufactured in rats, rather than from plasma donors.

The following papers represent the latest published work on development of therapeutic and prophylactic neutralizing antibodies to the coronavirus SARS-CoV2

1.  Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal SARS-CoV antibody.

Pinto, D., Park, Y., Beltramello, M. et al. Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal SARS-CoV antibody. Nature (2020).                                                                            https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2349-y


SARS-CoV-2 is a newly emerged coronavirus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in more than 3.7 million infections and 260,000 deaths as of 6 May 20201,2. Vaccine and therapeutic discovery efforts are paramount to curb the pandemic spread of this zoonotic virus. The SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein promotes entry into host cells and is the main target of neutralizing antibodies. Here we describe multiple monoclonal antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 S identified from memory B cells of an individual who was infected with SARS-CoV in 2003. One antibody, named S309, potently neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV pseudoviruses as well as authentic SARS-CoV-2 by engaging the S receptor-binding domain. Using cryo-electron microscopy and binding assays, we show that S309 recognizes a glycan-containing epitope that is conserved within the sarbecovirus subgenus, without competing with receptor attachment. Antibody cocktails including S309 along with other antibodies identified here further enhanced SARS-CoV-2 neutralization and may limit the emergence of neutralization-escape mutants. These results pave the way for using S309- and S309-containing antibody cocktails for prophylaxis in individuals at high risk of exposure or as a post-exposure therapy to limit or treat severe disease.


2.  Potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 identified by high-throughput single-cell sequencing of convalescent patients’ B cells

Yunlong Cao et al.  Potent neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 identified by high-throughput single-cell sequencing of convalescent patients’ B cells. Cell (2020).



The COVID-19 pandemic urgently needs therapeutic and prophylactic interventions. Here we report the rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies by high-throughput single-cell RNA and VDJ sequencing of antigen-enriched B cells from 60 convalescent patients. From 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes, 14 potent neutralizing antibodies were identified with the most potent one, BD-368-2, exhibiting an IC50 of 1.2 ng/mL and 15 ng/mL against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2, respectively. BD-368-2 also displayed strong therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy in SARS-CoV-2-infected hACE2-transgenic mice. Additionally, the 3.8Å Cryo-EM structure of a neutralizing antibody in complex with the spike-ectodomain trimer revealed the antibody’s epitope overlaps with the ACE2 binding site. Moreover, we demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies could be directly selected based on similarities of their predicted CDR3H structures to those of SARS-CoV neutralizing antibodies. Altogether, we showed that human neutralizing antibodies could be efficiently discovered by high-throughput single B-cell sequencing in response to pandemic infectious diseases.

3. A human monoclonal antibody blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection

Wang, C., Li, W., Drabek, D. et al. A human monoclonal antibody blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Commun 11, 2251 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16256-y


The emergence of the novel human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China has caused a worldwide epidemic of respiratory disease (COVID-19). Vaccines and targeted therapeutics for treatment of this disease are currently lacking. Here we report a human monoclonal antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 (and SARS-CoV) in cell culture. This cross-neutralizing antibody targets a communal epitope on these viruses and may offer potential for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Extra References on Development of Neutralizing antibodies for COVID19 {Sars-CoV2} published this year (2020)  [1-4]

  1. Fan P, Chi X, Liu G, Zhang G, Chen Z, Liu Y, Fang T, Li J, Banadyga L, He S et al: Potent neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against Ebola virus isolated from vaccinated donors. mAbs 2020, 12(1):1742457.
  2. Dussupt V, Sankhala RS, Gromowski GD, Donofrio G, De La Barrera RA, Larocca RA, Zaky W, Mendez-Rivera L, Choe M, Davidson E et al: Potent Zika and dengue cross-neutralizing antibodies induced by Zika vaccination in a dengue-experienced donor. Nature medicine 2020, 26(2):228-235.
  3. Young CL, Lyons AC, Hsu WW, Vanlandingham DL, Park SL, Bilyeu AN, Ayers VB, Hettenbach SM, Zelenka AM, Cool KR et al: Protection of swine by potent neutralizing anti-Japanese encephalitis virus monoclonal antibodies derived from vaccination. Antiviral research 2020, 174:104675.
  4. Sautto GA, Kirchenbaum GA, Abreu RB, Ecker JW, Pierce SR, Kleanthous H, Ross TM: A Computationally Optimized Broadly Reactive Antigen Subtype-Specific Influenza Vaccine Strategy Elicits Unique Potent Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies against Hemagglutinin. J Immunol 2020, 204(2):375-385.


For More Articles on COVID-19 Please see Our Coronavirus Portal on this Open Access Scientific Journal at:


and the following Articles on  Immunity at

Race to develop antibody drugs for COVID-19
Bispecific and Trispecific Engagers: NK-T Cells and Cancer Therapy
Issues Need to be Resolved With ImmunoModulatory Therapies: NK cells, mAbs, and adoptive T cells
Antibody-bound Viral Antigens

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Actemra, immunosuppressive which was designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis but also approved in 2017 to treat cytokine storms in cancer patients SAVED the sickest of all COVID-19 patients

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Emergency room doctor, near death with coronavirus, saved with experimental treatment

Soon after being admitted to his own hospital with a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, he was placed on a ventilator. Five days after that, his lungs and kidneys were failing, his heart was in trouble, and doctors figured he had a day or so to live.

He owes his survival to an elite team of doctors who tried an experimental treatment pioneered in China and used on the sickest of all COVID-19 patients.

Lessons from his dramatic recovery could help doctors worldwide treat other extremely ill COVID-19 patients.

Based on the astronomical level of inflammation in his body and reports written by Chinese and Italian physicians who had treated the sickest COVID-19 patients, the doctors came to believe that it was not the disease itself killing him but his own immune system.

It had gone haywire and began to attack itself — a syndrome known as a “cytokine storm.”

The immune system normally uses proteins called cytokines as weapons in fighting a disease. For unknown reasons in some COVID-19 patients, the immune system first fails to respond quickly enough and then floods the body with cytokines, destroying blood vessels and filling the lungs with fluid.

Dr. Matt Hartman, a cardiologist, said that after four days on the immunosuppressive drug, supplemented by high-dose vitamin C and other therapies, the level of oxygen in Padgett’s blood improved dramatically. On March 23, doctors were able to take him off life support.

Four days later, they removed his breathing tube. He slowly came out of his sedated coma, at first imagining that he was in the top floor of the Space Needle converted to a COVID ward.

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Structure-guided Drug Discovery: (1) The Coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro) enzyme (main protease) essential for proteolytic maturation of the virus and (2) viral protease, the RNA polymerase, the viral spike protein, a viral RNA as promising two targets for discovery of cleavage inhibitors of the viral spike polyprotein preventing the Coronavirus Virion the spread of infection


Curators and Reporters: Stephen J. Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Therapeutical options to coronavirus (2019-nCoV) include consideration of the following:

(a) Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies

(b)  Vaccines

(c)  Small molecule treatments (e.g., chloroquinolone and derivatives), including compounds already approved for other indications 

(d)  Immuno-therapies derived from human or other sources



Structure of the nCoV trimeric spike

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to be a public health emergency of international concern. The virus binds to host cells through its trimeric spike glycoprotein, making this protein a key target for potential therapies and diagnostics. Wrapp et al. determined a 3.5-angstrom-resolution structure of the 2019-nCoV trimeric spike protein by cryo–electron microscopy. Using biophysical assays, the authors show that this protein binds at least 10 times more tightly than the corresponding spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)–CoV to their common host cell receptor. They also tested three antibodies known to bind to the SARS-CoV spike protein but did not detect binding to the 2019-nCoV spike protein. These studies provide valuable information to guide the development of medical counter-measures for 2019-nCoV. [Bold Face Added by ALA]

Science, this issue p. 1260


The outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) represents a pandemic threat that has been declared a public health emergency of international concern. The CoV spike (S) glycoprotein is a key target for vaccines, therapeutic antibodies, and diagnostics. To facilitate medical countermeasure development, we determined a 3.5-angstrom-resolution cryo–electron microscopy structure of the 2019-nCoV S trimer in the prefusion conformation. The predominant state of the trimer has one of the three receptor-binding domains (RBDs) rotated up in a receptor-accessible conformation. We also provide biophysical and structural evidence that the 2019-nCoV S protein binds angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) with higher affinity than does severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV S. Additionally, we tested several published SARS-CoV RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies and found that they do not have appreciable binding to 2019-nCoV S, suggesting that antibody cross-reactivity may be limited between the two RBDs. The structure of 2019-nCoV S should enable the rapid development and evaluation of medical countermeasures to address the ongoing public health crisis.

Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation
  1. Department of Molecular Biosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.

  2. 2Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
  1. Corresponding author. Email: jmclellan@austin.utexas.edu
  1. * These authors contributed equally to this work.

Science  13 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6483, pp. 1260-1263
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb2507



New Coronavirus Protease Structure Available

PDB data provide a starting point for structure-guided drug discovery

A high-resolution crystal structure of COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro) has been determined by Zihe Rao and Haitao Yang’s research team at ShanghaiTech University. Rapid public release of this structure of the main protease of the virus (PDB 6lu7) will enable research on this newly-recognized human pathogen.

Recent emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus has resulted in a WHO-declared public health emergency of international concern. Research efforts around the world are working towards establishing a greater understanding of this particular virus and developing treatments and vaccines to prevent further spread.

While PDB entry 6lu7 is currently the only public-domain 3D structure from this specific coronavirus, the PDB contains structures of the corresponding enzyme from other coronaviruses. The 2003 outbreak of the closely-related Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS) led to the first 3D structures, and today there are more than 200 PDB structures of SARS proteins. Structural information from these related proteins could be vital in furthering our understanding of coronaviruses and in discovery and development of new treatments and vaccines to contain the current outbreak.

The coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro) enzyme, also known as the main protease, is essential for proteolytic maturation of the virus. It is thought to be a promising target for discovery of small-molecule drugs that would inhibit cleavage of the viral polyprotein and prevent spread of the infection.

Comparison of the protein sequence of the COVID-19 coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro) against the PDB archive identified 95 PDB proteins with at least 90% sequence identity. Furthermore, these related protein structures contain approximately 30 distinct small molecule inhibitors, which could guide discovery of new drugs. Of particular significance for drug discovery is the very high amino acid sequence identity (96%) between the COVID-19 coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro) and the SARS virus main protease (PDB 1q2w). Summary data about these closely-related PDB structures are available (CSV) to help researchers more easily find this information. In addition, the PDB houses 3D structure data for more than 20 unique SARS proteins represented in more than 200 PDB structures, including a second viral protease, the RNA polymerase, the viral spike protein, a viral RNA, and other proteins (CSV).

Public release of the COVID-19 coronavirus 3CL hydrolase (Mpro), at a time when this information can prove most vital and valuable, highlights the importance of open and timely availability of scientific data. The wwPDB strives to ensure that 3D biological structure data remain freely accessible for all, while maintaining as comprehensive and accurate an archive as possible. We hope that this new structure, and those from related viruses, will help researchers and clinicians address the COVID-19 coronavirus global public health emergency.

Update: Released COVID-19-related PDB structures include

  • PDB structure 6lu7 (X. Liu, B. Zhang, Z. Jin, H. Yang, Z. Rao Crystal structure of COVID-19 main protease in complex with an inhibitor N3 doi: 10.2210/pdb6lu7/pdb) Released 2020-02-05
  • PDB structure 6vsb (D. Wrapp, N. Wang, K.S. Corbett, J.A. Goldsmith, C.-L. Hsieh, O. Abiona, B.S. Graham, J.S. McLellan (2020) Cryo-EM structure of the 2019-nCoV spike in the prefusion conformation Science doi: 10.1126/science.abb2507) Released 2020-02-26
  • PDB structure 6lxt (Y. Zhu, F. Sun Structure of post fusion core of 2019-nCoV S2 subunit doi: 10.2210/pdb6lxt/pdb) Released 2020-02-26
  • PDB structure 6lvn (Y. Zhu, F. Sun Structure of the 2019-nCoV HR2 Domain doi: 10.2210/pdb6lvn/pdb) Released 2020-02-26
  • PDB structure 6vw1
    J. Shang, G. Ye, K. Shi, Y.S. Wan, H. Aihara, F. Li Structural basis for receptor recognition by the novel coronavirus from Wuhan doi: 10.2210/pdb6vw1/pdb
    Released 2020-03-04
  • PDB structure 6vww
    Y. Kim, R. Jedrzejczak, N. Maltseva, M. Endres, A. Godzik, K. Michalska, A. Joachimiak, Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases Crystal Structure of NSP15 Endoribonuclease from SARS CoV-2 doi: 10.2210/pdb6vww/pdb
    Released 2020-03-04
  • PDB structure 6y2e
    L. Zhang, X. Sun, R. Hilgenfeld Crystal structure of the free enzyme of the SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) main protease doi: 10.2210/pdb6y2e/pdb
    Released 2020-03-04
  • PDB structure 6y2f
    L. Zhang, X. Sun, R. Hilgenfeld Crystal structure (monoclinic form) of the complex resulting from the reaction between SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) main protease and tert-butyl (1-((S)-1-(((S)-4-(benzylamino)-3,4-dioxo-1-((S)-2-oxopyrrolidin-3-yl)butan-2-yl)amino)-3-cyclopropyl-1-oxopropan-2-yl)-2-oxo-1,2-dihydropyridin-3-yl)carbamate (alpha-ketoamide 13b) doi: 10.2210/pdb6y2f/pdb
    Released 2020-03-04
  • PDB structure 6y2g
    L. Zhang, X. Sun, R. Hilgenfeld Crystal structure (orthorhombic form) of the complex resulting from the reaction between SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) main protease and tert-butyl (1-((S)-1-(((S)-4-(benzylamino)-3,4-dioxo-1-((S)-2-oxopyrrolidin-3-yl)butan-2-yl)amino)-3-cyclopropyl-1-oxopropan-2-yl)-2-oxo-1,2-dihydropyridin-3-yl)carbamate (alpha-ketoamide 13b) doi: 10.2210/pdb6y2g/pdb
    Released 2020-03-04
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic impacting nearly 170 countries/regions and more than 285,000 patients worldwide. COVID-19 is caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), which invades cells through the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. Among those with COVID-19, there is a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease and more than 7% of patients suffer myocardial injury from the infection (22% of the critically ill). Despite ACE2 serving as the portal for infection, the role of ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers requires further investigation. COVID-19 poses a challenge for heart transplantation, impacting donor selection, immunosuppression, and post-transplant management. Thankfully there are a number of promising therapies under active investigation to both treat and prevent COVID-19. Key Words: COVID-19; myocardial injury; pandemic; heart transplant




  • Towler P, Staker B, Prasad SG, Menon S, Tang J, Parsons T, Ryan D, Fisher M, Williams D, Dales NA, Patane MA, Pantoliano MW (Apr 2004). “ACE2 X-ray structures reveal a large hinge-bending motion important for inhibitor binding and catalysis”The Journal of Biological Chemistry279 (17): 17996–8007. doi:10.1074/jbc.M311191200PMID 14754895.


  • Turner AJ, Tipnis SR, Guy JL, Rice G, Hooper NM (Apr 2002). “ACEH/ACE2 is a novel mammalian metallocarboxypeptidase and a homologue of angiotensin-converting enzyme insensitive to ACE inhibitors”Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology80 (4): 346–53. doi:10.1139/y02-021PMID 12025971.


  •  Zhang, Haibo; Penninger, Josef M.; Li, Yimin; Zhong, Nanshan; Slutsky, Arthur S. (3 March 2020). “Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a SARS-CoV-2 receptor: molecular mechanisms and potential therapeutic target”Intensive Care Medicine. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s00134-020-05985-9ISSN 0342-4642PMID 32125455.


  • ^ Gurwitz, David (2020). “Angiotensin receptor blockers as tentative SARS‐CoV‐2 therapeutics”Drug Development Researchdoi:10.1002/ddr.21656PMID 32129518.


Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)

is an exopeptidase that catalyses the conversion of angiotensin I to the nonapeptide angiotensin[1-9][5] or the conversion of angiotensin II to angiotensin 1-7.[6][7] ACE2 has direct effects on cardiac functiona and is expressed predominantly in vascular endothelial cells of the heart and the kidneys.[8] ACE2 is not sensitive to the ACE inhibitor drugs used to treat hypertension.[9]

ACE2 receptors have been shown to be the entry point into human cells for some coronaviruses, including the SARS virus.[10] A number of studies have identified that the entry point is the same for SARS-CoV-2,[11] the virus that causes COVID-19.[12][13][14][15]

Some have suggested that a decrease in ACE2 could be protective against Covid-19 disease[16], but others have suggested the opposite, that Angiotensin II receptor blocker drugs could be protective against Covid-19 disease via increasing ACE2, and that these hypotheses need to be tested by datamining of clinical patient records.[17]





We need your help! Folding@home is joining researchers around the world working to better understand the 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to accelerate the open science effort to develop new life-saving therapies. By downloading Folding@Home, you can donate your unused computational resources to the Folding@home Consortium, where researchers working to advance our understanding of the structures of potential drug targets for 2019-nCoV that could aid in the design of new therapies. The data you help us generate will be quickly and openly disseminated as part of an open science collaboration of multiple laboratories around the world, giving researchers new tools that may unlock new opportunities for developing lifesaving drugs.

2019-nCoV is a close cousin to SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and acts in a similar way. For both coronaviruses, the first step of infection occurs in the lungs, when a protein on the surface  of the virus binds to a receptor protein on a lung cell. This viral protein is called the spike protein, depicted in red in the image below, and the receptor is known as ACE2. A therapeutic antibody is a type of protein that can block the viral protein from binding to its receptor, therefore preventing the virus from infecting the lung cell. A therapeutic antibody has already been developed for SARS-CoV, but to develop therapeutic antibodies or small molecules for 2019-nCoV, scientists need to better understand the structure of the viral spike protein and how it binds to the human ACE2 receptor required for viral entry into human cells.

Proteins are not stagnant—they wiggle and fold and unfold to take on numerous shapes.  We need to study not only one shape of the viral spike protein, but all the ways the protein wiggles and folds into alternative shapes in order to best understand how it interacts with the ACE2 receptor, so that an antibody can be designed. Low-resolution structures of the SARS-CoV spike protein exist and we know the mutations that differ between SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV.  Given this information, we are uniquely positioned to help model the structure of the 2019-nCoV spike protein and identify sites that can be targeted by a therapeutic antibody. We can build computational models that accomplish this goal, but it takes a lot of computing power.

This is where you come in! With many computers working towards the same goal, we aim to help develop a therapeutic remedy as quickly as possible. By downloading Folding@home here [LINK] and selecting to contribute to “Any Disease”, you can help provide us with the computational power required to tackle this problem. One protein from 2019-nCoV, a protease encoded by the viral RNA, has already been crystallized. Although the 2019-nCoV spike protein of interest has not yet been resolved bound to ACE2, our objective is to use the homologous structure of the SARS-CoV spike protein to identify therapeutic antibody targets.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019.

Image and Caption Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM available at https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=23311

Structures of the closely related SARS-CoV spike protein bound by therapeutic antibodies may help rapidly design better therapies. The three monomers of the SARS-CoV spike protein are shown in different shades of red; the antibody is depicted in green. [PDB: 6NB7 https://www.rcsb.org/structure/6nb7]

(post authored by Ariana Brenner Clerkin)


PDB 6lu7 structure summary ‹ Protein Data Bank in Europe (PDBe) ‹ EMBL-EBI https://www.ebi.ac.uk/pdbe/entry/pdb/6lu7 (accessed Feb 5, 2020).

Tian, X.; Li, C.; Huang, A.; Xia, S.; Lu, S.; Shi, Z.; Lu, L.; Jiang, S.; Yang, Z.; Wu, Y.; et al. Potent Binding of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Spike Protein by a SARS Coronavirus-Specific Human Monoclonal Antibody; preprint; Microbiology, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.28.923011.

Walls, A. C.; Xiong, X.; Park, Y. J.; Tortorici, M. A.; Snijder, J.; Quispe, J.; Cameroni, E.; Gopal, R.; Dai, M.; Lanzavecchia, A.; et al. Unexpected Receptor Functional Mimicry Elucidates Activation of Coronavirus Fusion. Cell 2019176, 1026-1039.e15. https://doi.org/10.2210/pdb6nb7/pdb.



UPDATED 3/13/2020

I am reposting the following Science blog post from Derrick Lowe as is and ask people go browse through the comments on his Science blog In the Pipeline because, as Dr. Lowe states that in this current crisis it is important to disseminate good information as quickly as possible so wanted the readers here to have the ability to read his great posting on this matter of Covid-19.  Also i would like to direct readers to the journal Science opinion letter concerning how important it is to rebuild the trust in good science and the scientific process.  The full link for the following In the Pipeline post is: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/03/06/covid-19-small-molecule-therapies-reviewed

A Summary of current potential repurposed therapeutics for COVID-19 Infection from In The Pipeline: A Science blog from Derick Lowe

Covid-19 Small Molecule Therapies Reviewed

Let’s take inventory on the therapies that are being developed for the coronavirus epidemic. Here is a very thorough list of at Biocentury, and I should note that (like Stat and several other organizations) they’re making all their Covid-19 content free to all readers during this crisis. I’d like to zoom in today on the potential small-molecule therapies, since some of these have the most immediate prospects for use in the real world.

The ones at the front of the line are repurposed drugs that are already approved for human use, for a lot of obvious reasons. The Biocentury list doesn’t cover these, but here’s an article at Nature Biotechnology that goes into detail. Clinical trials are a huge time sink – they sort of have to be, in most cases, if they’re going to be any good – and if you’ve already done all that stuff it’s a huge leg up, even if the drug itself is not exactly a perfect fit for the disease. So what do we have? The compound that is most advanced is probably remdesivir from Gilead, at right. This has been in development for a few years as an RNA virus therapy – it was originally developed for Ebola, and has been tried out against a whole list of single-strand RNA viruses. That includes the related coronaviruses SARS and MERS, so Covid-19 was an obvious fit.

The compound is a prodrug – that phosphoramide gets cleaved off completely, leaving the active 5-OH compound GS-44-1524. It mechanism of action is to get incorporated into viral RNA, since it’s taken up by RNA polymerase and it largely seems to evade proofreading. This causes RNA termination trouble later on, since that alpha-nitrile C-nucleoside is not exactly what the virus is expecting in its genome at that point, and thus viral replication is inhibited.

There are five clinical trials underway (here’s an overview at Biocentury). The NIH has an adaptive-design Phase II trial that has already started in Nebraska, with doses to be changed according to Bayesian readouts along the way. There are two Phase III trials underway at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Hubei, double-blinded and placebo-controlled (since placebo is, as far as drug therapy goes, the current standard of care). And Gilead themselves are starting two open-label trials, one with no control arm and one with an (unblinded) standard-of-care comparison arm. Those might read out first, depending on when they get off the ground, but will be only rough readouts due to the fast-and-loose trial design. The two Hubei trials and the NIH one will add some rigor to the process, but I’m not sure when they’re going to report. My personal opinion is that I like the chances of this drug more than anything else on this list, but it’s still unlikely to be a game-changer.

There’s an RNA polymerase inhibitor (favipiravir) from Toyama, at right, that’s in a trial in China. It’s a thought – a broad-spectrum agent of this sort would be the sort of thing to try. But unfortunately, from what I can see, it has already turned up as ineffective in in vitro tests. The human trial that’s underway is honestly the sort of thing that would only happen under circumstances like the present: a developing epidemic with a new pathogen and no real standard of care. I hold out little hope for this one, but given that there’s nothing else at present, it probably should be tried. As you’ll see, this is far from the only situation like this.

One of the screens of known drugs in China that also flagged remdesivir noted that the old antimalarial drug chloroquine seemed to be effective in vitro. It had been reported some years back as a possible antiviral, working through more than one mechanism, probably both at viral entry and intracellularly thereafter. That part shouldn’t be surprising – chloroquine’s actual mode(s) of action against malaria parasites are still not completely worked out, either, and some of what people thought they knew about it has turned out to be wrong. There are several trials underway with it at Chinese facilities, some in combination with other agents like remdesivir. Chloroquine has of course been taken for many decades as an antimalarial, but it has a number of liabilities, including seizures, hearing damage, retinopathy and sudden effects on blood glucose. So it’s going to be important to establish just how effective it is and what doses will be needed. Just as with vaccine candidates, it’s possible to do more harm with a rushed treatment than the disease is doing itself

There are several other known antiviral drugs are being tried in China, but I don’t have too much hope for those, either. The neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir (better known as Tamiflu) were tried against SARS and were ineffective; there is no reason to expect anything versus Covid-19 although these drugs are a component of some drug cocktail trials. The HIV protease therapies such as darunavir and the combination therapy Kaletra are in trials, but that’s also a rather desperate long shot, since there’s no particular reason to think that they will have any such protease inhibition against what this new virus has to offer (and indeed, such agents weren’t much help against SARS in the end, either). The classic interferon/ribavirin combination seems to have had some activity against SARS and MERS, and is in two trials from what I can see. That’s not an awful idea by any means, but it’s not a great one, either: if your viral disease has interferon/ribavirin as a front line therapy, it generally means that there’s nothing really good available. No, unless we get really lucky none of these ideas are going to slow the disease down much.

There are a few other repurposed-protease-inhibitors ideas out there, such as this one. (Edit: I had seen this paper but couldn’t track it down, so thanks to those who sent it along). This paper suggests that the TMPRSS2 protease is important for viral entry on the human-cell-side of the process, a pathway that has been noted for other coronaviruses. And it points out that there is a an approved inhibitor (in Japan) for this enzyme (camostat), so that would definitely seem to be worth a trial, probably in combination with remdesivir.

That’s about it for the existing small molecules, from what I can see. What about new ones? Don’t hold your breath, is all I can say. A drug discovery program from scratch against a new pathogen is, as many readers here well know, not a trivial exercise. As this Bloomberg article details, many such efforts in the past (small molecules and vaccines alike) have come to grief because by the time they had anything to deliver the epidemic itself had passed. Indeed, Gilead’s remdesivir had already been dropped as a potential Ebola therapy.

You will either need to have a target in mind up front or go phenotypic. For the former, what you’d see are better characterizations of the viral protease and more extensive screens against it. Two other big target areas are viral entry (which involves the “spike” proteins on the virus surface and the ACE2 protein on human cells) and viral replication. To the former, it’s worth quickly noting that ACE2 is so much unlike the more familiar ACE protein that none of the cardiovascular ACE inhibitors do anything to it at all. And targeting the latter mechanisms is how remdesivir was developed as a possible Ebola agent, but as you can see, that took time, too. Phenotypic screens are perfectly reasonable against viral pathogens as well, but you’ll need to put time and effort into that assay up front, just as with any phenotypic effort, because as anyone who does that sort of work will tell you, a bad phenotypic screen is a complete waste of everyone’s time.

One of the key steps for either route is identifying an animal model. While animal models of infectious disease can be extremely well translated to human therapy, that doesn’t happen by accident: you need to choose the right animal. Viruses in general (and coronaviruses are no exception) vary widely in their effects in different species, and not just across the gaps of bird/reptile/human and the like. No, you’ll run into things where even the usual set of small mammals are acting differently from each other, with some of them not even getting sick at all. This current virus may well have gone through a couple of other mammalian species before landing on us, but you’ll note that dogs (to pick one) don’t seem to have any problem with it.

All this means that any new-target new-chemical-matter effort against Covid-19 (or any new pathogen) is going to take years, and there is just no way around that. Update: see here for just such an effort to start finding fragment hits for the viral protease. This puts small molecules in a very bimodal distribution: you have the existing drugs that might be repurposed, and are presumably available right now. Nothing else is! At the other end, for completely new therapies you have the usual prospects of drug discovery: years from now, lots of money, low success rate, good luck to all of us. The gap between these two could in theory be filled by vaccines and antibody therapies (if everything goes really, really well) but those are very much their own area and will be dealt with in a separate post.

Either way, the odds are that we (and I mean “we as a species” here) are going to be fighting this epidemic without any particularly amazing pharmacological weapons. Eventually we’ll have some, but I would advise people, pundits, and politicians not to get all excited about the prospects for some new therapies to come riding up over the hill to help us out. The odds of that happening in time to do anything about the current outbreak are very small. We will be going for months, years, with the therapeutic options we have right now. Look around you: what we have today is what we have to work with.

Other related articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:


Group of Researchers @ University of California, Riverside, the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, and Northwestern University solve COVID-19 Structure and Map Potential Therapeutics

Reporters: Stephen J Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Predicting the Protein Structure of Coronavirus: Inhibition of Nsp15 can slow viral replication and Cryo-EM – Spike protein structure (experimentally verified) vs AI-predicted protein structures (not experimentally verified) of DeepMind (Parent: Google) aka AlphaFold

Curators: Stephen J. Williams, PhD and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN



Coronavirus facility opens at Rambam Hospital using new Israeli tech



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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Effective humoral immune responses to infection and immunization are defined by high-affinity antibodies generated as a result of B cell differentiation and selection that occurs within germinal centers (GC). Within the GC, B cells undergo affinity maturation, an iterative and competitive process wherein B cells mutate their immunoglobulin genes (somatic hypermutation) and undergo clonal selection by competing for T cell help. Balancing the decision to remain within the GC and continue participating in affinity maturation or to exit the GC as a plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) is critical for achieving optimal antibody avidity, antibody quantity, and establishing immunological memory in response to immunization or infection. Humoral immune responses during chronic infections are often dysregulated and characterized by hypergammaglobulinemia, decreased affinity maturation, and delayed development of neutralizing antibodies. Previous studies have suggested that poor antibody quality is in part due to deletion of B cells prior to establishment of the GC response.


In fact the impact of chronic infections on B cell fate decisions in the GC remains poorly understood. To address this question, researchers used single-cell transcriptional profiling of virus-specific GC B cells to test the hypothesis that chronic viral infection disrupted GC B cell fate decisions leading to suboptimal humoral immunity. These studies revealed a critical GC differentiation checkpoint that is disrupted by chronic infection, specifically at the point of dark zone re-entry. During chronic viral infection, virus-specific GC B cells were shunted towards terminal plasma cell (PC) or memory B cell (MBC) fates at the expense of continued participation in the GC. Early GC exit was associated with decreased B cell mutational burden and antibody quality. Persisting antigen and inflammation independently drove facets of dysregulation, with a key role for inflammation in directing premature terminal GC B cell differentiation and GC exit. Thus, the present research defines GC defects during chronic viral infection and identify a critical GC checkpoint that is short-circuited, preventing optimal maturation of humoral immunity.


Together, these studies identify a key GC B cell differentiation checkpoint that is dysregulated during chronic infection. Further, it was found that the chronic inflammatory environment, rather than persistent antigen, is sufficient to drive altered GC B cell differentiation during chronic infection even against unrelated antigens. However, the data also indicate that inflammatory circuits are likely linked to perception of antigen stimulation. Nevertheless, this study reveals a B cell-intrinsic program of transcriptional skewing in chronic viral infection that results in shunting out of the cyclic GC B cell process and early GC exit with consequences for antibody quality and hypergammaglobulinemia. These findings have implications for vaccination in individuals with pre-existing chronic infections where antibody responses are often ineffective and suggest that modulation of inflammatory pathways may be therapeutically useful to overcome impaired humoral immunity and foster affinity maturation during chronic viral infections.
















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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


One of the most contagious diseases known to humankind, measles killed an average of 2.6 million people each year before a vaccine was developed, according to the World Health Organization. Widespread vaccination has slashed the death toll. However, lack of access to vaccination and refusal to get vaccinated means measles still infects more than 7 million people and kills more than 100,000 each year worldwide as reported by WHO. The cases are on the rise, tripling in early 2019 and some experience well-known long-term consequences, including brain damage and vision and hearing loss. Previous epidemiological research into immune amnesia suggests that death rates attributed to measles could be even higher, accounting for as much as 50 percent of all childhood mortality.


Over the last decade, evidence has mounted that the measles vaccine protects in two ways. It prevents the well-known acute illness with spots and fever and also appears to protect from other infections over the long term by giving general boost to the immune system. The measles virus can impair the body’s immune memory, causing so-called immune amnesia. By protecting against measles infection, the vaccine prevents the body from losing or “forgetting” its immune memory and preserves its resistance to other infections. Researchers showed that the measles virus wipes out 11% to 73% of the different antibodies that protect against viral and bacterial strains a person was previously immune to like from influenza to herpes virus to bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections.


This study at Harvard Medical School and their collaborators is the first to measure the immune damage caused by the virus and underscores the value of preventing measles infection through vaccination. The discovery that measles depletes people’s antibody repertoires, partially obliterating immune memory to most previously encountered pathogens, supports the immune amnesia hypothesis. It was found that those who survive measles gradually regain their previous immunity to other viruses and bacteria as they get re-exposed to them. But because this process may take months to years, people remain vulnerable in the meantime to serious complications of those infections and thus booster shots of routine vaccines may be required.


VirScan detects antiviral and antibacterial antibodies in the blood that result from current or past encounters with viruses and bacteria, giving an overall snapshot of the immune system. Researchers gathered blood samples from unvaccinated children during a 2013 measles outbreak in the Netherlands and used VirScan to measure antibodies before and two months after infection in 77 children who’d contracted the disease. The researchers also compared the measurements to those of 115 uninfected children and adults. Researchers found a striking drop in antibodies from other pathogens in the measles-infected children that clearly suggested a direct effect on the immune system resembling measles-induced immune amnesia.


Further tests revealed that severe measles infection reduced people’s overall immunity more than mild infection. This could be particularly problematic for certain categories of children and adults, the researchers said. The present study observed the effects in previously healthy children only. But, measles is known to hit malnourished children much harder, the degree of immune amnesia and its effects could be even more severe in less healthy populations. Inoculation with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine did not impair children’s overall immunity. The results align with decades of research. Ensuring widespread vaccination against measles would not only help prevent the expected 120,000 deaths that will be directly attributed to measles this year alone, but could also avert potentially hundreds of thousands of additional deaths attributable to the lasting damage to the immune system.
















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