New antibody will drive deadly virus treatment manufacture

Photo: University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Researchers at the University of Queensland have developed a process to produce large quantities of a crucial antibody, which could be expanded to manufacture treatments for potentially deadly viruses around the world.

The ability to produce anti-bodies at larger scales, coupled with formal regulatory approval via clinical trials, will play an important role in mitigating the impact and spread of these diseases, according to professor Trent Munro, director of the National Biologics Facility (NBF) based at Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

“We’re very fortunate to have a facility such as UQ’s NBF as it offers a unique capability to manufacture these novel products – normally this would only be possible at great expense and long timelines within a commercial facility.”

Hendra is a rare but deadly henipavirus that infects fruit bats, however it can be transmitted to horses, and then passed on to humans who have had close contact with an infected horse.

Professor Munro said that there was potential to use the antibody against another henipavirus such as the lethal Nipah virus – listed by the World Health Organisation as a priority pathogen with epidemic potential.

“Enabling quick, technology-driven solutions to very serious disease outbreaks is an area where we need continued investment, or we risk not being able to respond appropriately in the future,” professor Munro said.

The Hendra virus therapeutic antibody will be used in a world-first human Hendra virus clinical trial. The therapeutic antibody m102.4 blocks the virus’ entry to healthy human cells enabling the immune system to fight it off.

The antibody m102.4 was developed by professor Chris Broder and his team at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the National Institutes of Health in the US.