Antibodies are a powerful countermeasure against COVID-19. Not only can they relieve symptoms in patients experiencing severe forms of the disease, but they can also be deployed as a “temporary vaccine”, protecting vulnerable individuals from infection.
Biopharmaceutical companies are working on an inhaled COVID-19 drug consisting of aerosolized nanoparticles containing mRNA antibodies. These nanoparticles can penetrate tissues and deliver the genetic instructions for the antibodies, in the form of mRNA, directly into cells lining the respiratory tract. In response, the cellular machinery then produces and releases high levels of the virus-binding antibody into the lungs, neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 and resisting infection.
In a pandemic situation, mRNA drugs can be swiftly deployed and accelerated through drug development pipelines. This approach was successfully demonstrated in 2019 against another viral pathogen, the Chikungunya virus. Here, mRNA antibodies administered to healthy adults protected them against severe infection from the mosquito-borne virus.
A similar approach could help ease the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Gita Dittmar, CEO of German RNA biotech, Ethris, said, “To cure COVID-19, the virus has to be cleared systemically. This may eventually be achieved by the patients’ natural immune response against the virus, or, once developed, by systemic treatments against the virus.”
“Our goal is to rapidly treat lung disease in patients with COVID-19 to gain time for systemic clearance of the virus and to reduce major lung complications,” Dittmar explains.
The drug development project is a collaboration between Ethris and Swiss antibody company, Neurimmune. The company has another human monoclonal antibody for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s disease currently in development.
While there are currently no clinically-approved mRNA drugs on the market, evidence from similar therapeutics in development suggest that such treatments could be safe and effective. This drug joins a long list of other pharmaceutical agents against SARS-CoV-2 that are being evaluated, from antiviral therapies to anti-inflammatory treatments.