COVID-19 to be treated from cows' blood? Scientists to start human trials
A biopharmaceutical company in South Dakota, US, has genetically engineered cows to give them part-human immune systems. This allows the animals to make large quantities of human antibodies against the novel coronavirus.
As scientists are busy finding a cure for the novel coronavirus, a biopharmaceutical company in South Dakota, US, is developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 derived from the plasma of cows.
SAb Biotherapeutics has genetically engineered the animal to give them immune cells from humans. In turn, the cows produce antibodies against the novel coronavirus, which is turned into a drug currently named SAB-185.
"These animals are producing neutralizing antibodies that kill (the novel coronavirus) in the laboratory," Eddie Sullivan, CEO of SAB Biotherapeutics told CNN.
"We are eager to advance to the clinic as we move forward in the regulatory process with the hopes of bringing this potential COVID-19 therapeutic to patients in need of a solution."
Now the company expects to start human trials next month for the COVID-19 antibody treatment. The company did not say how many people would be studied in the clinical trials or how long they would take.
Experts say that cows were the animal of choice because they produce large amounts of antibodies in their blood, twice as many per milliliter compared to humans.
To make its drug, SAB took skin cells from a cow and removed the genes that are responsible for creating cow antibodies. Then they inserted an artificial human chromosome that produces antibodies for humans.
Scientists put the DNA from those cells into a cow egg and turned it into an embryo. They then implanted that embryo into a cow to start a pregnancy, and over the past two decades, have produced several hundred genetically identical cows, all of them with partly human immune systems.
The scientists then injected some of the cows with a non-infectious part of the virus that causes Covid-19. The cows are now producing human antibodies to the coronavirus. Those antibodies naturally fight off the virus.
More than 8.3 million cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, including at least 449,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.