European researchers have developed a promising second generation antibody that is effective in neutralising the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants, which could be used in both prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:
To fight the coronavirus, the world urgently needs effective and safe diagnostics, treatments and vaccines - without these we all remain vulnerable. Thanks to the work of EU funded researchers, this new finding could prevent and treat cases of COVID-19, ultimately saving lives.
When faced with a new disease like COVID-19, we do not have antibodies ready to identify and fight the new coronavirus. However, with this novel biomolecule, named COV-X2 – an antibody engineered to bind to two independent parts of the virus simultaneously, thus making it bispecific - researchers have combined into a single molecule the advantages of a combination of antibody treatments. In practice, this means that even if the virus mutates in one part, there will still be a second viral target for the antibody to bind to. Its nature confers high potency and makes COV-X2 a promising candidate worth testing in human clinical trials with the prospects, if proven safe and effective, for use in both prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
The Commission foresees to reinforce the ATAC project through the HERA incubator designed for addressing the emerging threat of coronavirus variants, in order to perform a phase I clinical evaluation of COV-X2.
The Antibody therapy against coronavirus (ATAC) project received a €3 million grant in April 2020 as one of 18 projects funded from an emergency call for expressions of interest in response to the COVID-19 pandemic under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme (2014-2020).
The ATAC project is led by Karolinska Institute (SE). Other members of the consortium include: San Matteo Hospital in Pavia (IT), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (CH), Technical University Braunschweig (DE) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Additional collaborations with the Rockefeller University (US) and the Czech Academy of Science were instrumental in demonstrating the bispecific efficacy of the novel antibody.
The European Union reacted immediately to the COVID-19 outbreak with several research and innovation actions, as early as January 2020. In all, it pledged to invest over €1 billion from Horizon 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response initiative. To date almost €880 million has been mobilised from this pledge.
- Publication date
- 25 March 2021
- Directorate-General for Research and Innovation