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Why Mab is Fab: A Monoclonal Antibody Defeats COVID-19

By Shlomo Maital

   Scientists all over the world are desperately searching for a ‘silver bullet’ – a magical compound that can defeat the insidious, devious and evil novel coronavirus. It may be that scientists at Israel’s Institute for Biological Research have found it.

   First, a small science lecture.

   Antibodies are large, Y-shaped proteins produced mainly by plasma cells in the body, that are used by the body’s immune system to neutralize pathogenic bacteria and viruses that make us ill or kill us.

   Monoclonal antibodies (Mab’s, for short, the suffix added to drugs produced in this way) are antibodies made by identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell.  Monoclonal antibodies bind to the same part of an antigen [the bad stuff from a virus] that is recognized by the antibody.

   Put it this way: Monoclonal antibodies (Mab’s) are like little guided missiles, fired by the body at, for example, the spikes on the coronavirus that poke through cell walls and infect it. [See the diagram above].   Those little guided missiles neutralize those spikes and prevent the virus from infecting human cells by poking through their walls. The body then destroys the virus before it does damage.

     These Mab’s have been used so far mainly as promising anti-cancer drugs, as part of so-called immunotherapy. The anti-cancer drugs zero in on cancer cells and kill them. The key is the word “monoclonal” – unique little antibodies that aim specifically, uniquely, at an offending invading virus or cancer cell.

       A press announcement stated: “The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) has completed a groundbreaking scientific development, determining an antibody that neutralizes the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, according to a statement by the Defense Ministry. [That is the scientific name for the virus that causes COVID-19]. This scientific breakthrough has three key parameters: The antibody is monoclonal, new and refined, and contains an exceptionally low proportion of harmful proteins; the institute has demonstrated the ability of the antibody to neutralize the coronavirus;  the antibody was specifically tested on the aggressive coronavirus. Based on comprehensive scientific publications from around the globe, it appears that the IIBR is the first institution to achieve a scientific breakthrough that meets all three of the aforementioned parameters simultaneously,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement on behalf of the institute.

   The breakthrough is now being patented.

   In addition, to produce the COVIDi-19 Mab, “IIBR and the small southern town of Yeruham, Israel, on Monday night announced they have big plans to open Israel’s first vaccine production facility, in partnership with one of two prospective international pharmaceutical companies.”

     All over the world, vaccine production facilities are ramping up, long before the vaccines themselves have been proven safe and effective. So once a vaccine is found, it can be produced in large amounts quickly.

The Mab approach is promising, because it is a compound that can be taken orally, rather than by injection.

   Let us hope that this report is accurate and that the anti-corona Mab really works and can be produced massively and quickly, and safely.  Let’s hope the Israeli Mab is indeed fab.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
May 2020
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