Avantgen Develops Novel Human Antibodies to Diagnose SARS-COV-2 Infection and Treat COVID-19

Avantgen Develops Novel Human Antibodies to Diagnose SARS-COV-2 Infection and Treat COVID-19


SAN DIEGO, CA.–(BUSINESS WIRE).  AvantGen, Inc., a privately-held San Diego-based biotechnology company and contract service provider, today announced it has identified and tested fully human synthetic antibodies (“mAbs”) against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, the “novel Coronavirus”) that show promise for development as diagnostics for SARS-CoV-2 infection and therapeutics for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.  To date, about 2.5 million people have been infected across 210 countries and territories around the world.  COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, can lead to pneumonia and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.  Patients infected by SARS-CoV-2 have shown a much higher mortality rate compared to patients infected by the influenza virus.  For those patients who develop breathing problems and required hospitalization, the subsequent course of the illness is much more severe and protracted than for influenza.

Like many other researchers and organizations around the world, AvantGen is racing to create more effective diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19.

“When the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned the novel Coronavirus was beginning to spread at a community level in the US on February 24th, we decided to screen our yeast display fully human synthetic antibody libraries for unique antibodies, or mAbs, against the virus for therapeutic and diagnostic development, to help combat this outbreak”, said Dr. Xiaomin Fan, Founder, President and CEO of AvantGen, “Within 3-4 weeks, we were able to isolate hundreds of unique mAbs directed against the spike envelope protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and identified a subset that are able to block the spike protein binding to the receptor on human cells, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme -2 (ACE2)”.

Testing conducted by the Company in close collaboration with leading academic groups demonstrate that a panel of unique mAbs can effectively neutralize virus-induced cell-killing, also known as cytopathic effect (CPE).  Among these neutralizing unique mAbs, some can block the spike protein from interacting with ACE2, while others do not block the interaction.  The finding that two distinct groups of unique mAbs, with different binding sites on the spike protein can neutralize the virus paves a way for the development of a cocktail of mAbs comprising blocking and non-blocking neutralizing mAbs for potentially a more effective therapy.

A second set of unique mAbs have been isolated that are suitable for the development of a rapid point-of-care diagnosis of Coronavirus infection by detecting the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in clinical samples, such as saliva.  Such diagnostic kits can detect Coronavirus infection in a few minutes at a very early stage of infection and does not require sophisticated equipment, a major advantage over the current PCR based methods.  The development of the rapid diagnostic kit is currently on-going with collaborators, whose exceptionally sensitive detetion materials and state-of-the art manufacturing technologies represent potential advantages over currently available methods.

“We are pleased to see the potent neutralizing activities of the unique mAbs as potential therapeutics, the suitability of other unique mAbs for a potentially improved Coronavirus diagnostic kit, and the progress we have made in such a short time frame.  These developments also highlight the speed and quality of the mAbs we can discover with our robust platform that enables us to make our contribution to the fight against this pandemic”, said Dr. Fan.

About AvantGen

AvantGen, Inc is a leader in the use of yeast display technology for antibody discovery and optimization.  Founded by experts in the creation of antibody discovery and optimization platforms, AvantGen excels in the rapid generation of antibodies for therapeutic, diagnostic and research tool applications. The Company’s platforms include a robust yeast display system, large natural human antibody database, fully human synthetic antibody libraries comprised of over 100 billion antibody clones displayed by yeast cells, NK cell engager technology, flow cytometry-based and other screening technologies, as well as novel methodologies for rabbit monoclonal antibody generation.

For more information, visit www.avantgen.com.

Mark F. Kubik, Chief Business Officer
Cell: 720-441-9396

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faq Want to learn more?

  • Why Yeast?

    Yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae aka brewer’s yeast to be exact, has the best of both worlds as a model organism for drug discovery. In selecting the right model, two opposing factors are: 1) finding an organism that can be used cost-effectively and ethically, and 2) being physiologically relevant by having it as similar as humans, the intended patients. This is where yeast has all the advantages: 1) it is unicellular, grows incredibly fast at a doubling rate of 90 minutes, and is easy and safe (non-pathogenic) to culture, meanwhile 2) as a eukaryote it can properly express, fold, and glycosylate proteins such as antibodies similar to mammals.

  • Yeast is “similar” but not the same as in humans with regards to post-translation modification (PTM) of proteins such as glycosylation?

    Correct, there are slight differences in the PTM profiles of proteins expressed in yeast versus mammals. However, we recombinantly express our lead antibodies in HEK293 or CHO cells and rarely observe a loss in activity. This is in stark contrast with E. coli-based systems like phage or cell-free, where bacteria lack protein glycosylation machinery.

  • Is affinity maturation required after using one of your platforms?

    Due to our large size rationally-designed Germliner™ library collection coupled with our rapid cell sorting based screening, we consistently obtain single-digit and subnM affinity antibodies with optimal developable characteristics. Interestingly, our popular AvantGeneer affinity maturation platform has been frequently used to optimize client antibodies that were originally discovered with hybridoma and human transgenic mouse platforms.

  • My target is a GPCR. Will your platform work?

    We have had success with multi-transmembrane proteins such as GPCRs, by using virus-like-particles (VLPs), nanodiscs, and client-designed variants with increased solubility.

  • What materials should I provide?

    We typically use various amounts of biotinylated, DyLight™ 650 conjugated, and unlabeled antigens for all projects. It’s important that both labeled and unlabeled antigens are QC’ed by provider, third party, and/or AvantGen. >0.5 mg/mL concentration, >80% monomer percentage, and >90% purity. Preferred buffer is PBS and no tris-based buffers please.

    Estimated Material Amounts*

    Application Stage Discovery Affinity Maturation Rabbit mAb
    All stages 1.5-2 mg biotinylated or 2-3 mg unlabeled 0.5 mg biotinylated or 1 mg unlabeled 2 mg unlabeled and 1 mg biotinylated
    FACS and screening 0.5-1 mg biotinylated or 1-2 mg unlabeled 0.2-0.5 mg biotinylated or 0.5-1 mg unlabeled 1 mg biotinylated and 0.2 mg unlabeled
    Screening only 0.2 mg biotinylated or 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled 0.2 mg biotinylated or 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled 0.2-0.5 mg unlabeled

    *Assuming 50 kDa antigen. AvantGen can bioconjugate and QC as needed.

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