What the Newly Found Ebola Antibodies Mean for the Healthcare Industry


Published Date : Jan 14, 2016

In what could be perceived to be one of the greater breakthroughs in the field of medicine, researchers have engineered the first antibodies that have the ability to neutralize two strains of the deadly Ebola-causing virus. The research was conducted on mice and is considered to be a major step in achieving immunization against all strains of Ebola.

The research was led by Dr. Jonathan Lai. He stated that it is a tremendous advance to achieve a broadly effective Ebola immunotherapy. This is because it is theoretically impossible to predict which strain will cause the next Ebola outbreak.

The largest Ebola outbreak in the history of man was in 2014, which was caused by the Zaire Ebola Virus (EBOV). The second most deadliest Ebola strain is the Sudan Ebola virus (SUDV). Currently, a vaccine specific to the Zaire Ebola virus is already in the pipeline, but so far, no cure has been approved for the complete cure of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Therapies for the infected patients are also very limited and not completely stable. 

The new "bi-specific" antibodies that have been created by Dr. Lai's team hold important glycoprotein-binding sequences that are present in both of the deadliest Ebola strains. These antibodies have so far been successful in eradicating the two Ebola strains they have encountered.

Not only that, but the bi-specific antibodies also provided a high level of protection to the mice that had been exposed to fatal doses of at least one of the strains.

Dr. Lai, PhD,  is one of the co-leaders of the project and is a professor of biochemistry at Einstein. The other co-leader of the research project is John M. Dye, PhD, who is the chief at the viral immunology branch at USAMRIID.

The two have previously worked in other related fields. Dr. Lai and his team have been working on a technique called synthetic antibody engineering in order to create the first variations of Ebola antibodies that are humanized. 

The most effective therapy for Ebola currently is provided through ZMapp, which is essentially a mixture of three antibodies, all monoclonal. But even in the case of ZMapp, it is only feasible for the treatment of EBOV.