A group of genetically modified cows could play a huge role in the fight against COVID-19.
A clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company in the US, called SAb Biotherapeutics, have begun leveraging genetically engineered cattle to produce fully human antibodies.
These antibodies have the potential to neutralize the activity of live SARS-CoV-2 cells. This form of therapy, called SAB-185, has proven to have significantly higher neutralizing potential than the use of plasma recovered from COVID-19 patients, according to William B. Klimstra, PhD Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“We are still in the early stages of evaluating SAB-185, but the preliminary results are promising. My laboratory is conducting a series of studies to bring SAB-185 into clinical trials as soon as possible.”
“Essentially, the cows are used as a giant bioreactor,”The key aspect of this study is the volume they can produce from the cows. Klimstra said.
Cows make good antibody factories because they have more blood than smaller animals engineered to synthesize human versions of the proteins. Their blood can also contain twice as many antibodies per millilitre as human blood.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, SAb Biotherapeutics had already completed a trial with cow generated antibodies against Middle East respiratory syndrome, which is caused by a coronavirus related to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
Developing that treatment supplied the company with the initial knowledge for their COVID-19 trials and within 7-weeks the cows were generating antibodies targeted towards treatment for COVID-19.