mRNA Inconsistencies, Antibody Cocktails, Antibody Mapping: COVID-19 Updates

March 12, 2021

March 12, 2021 | A research team led by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggest that new SARS-CoV-2 virus variants will evade antibodies created by earlier exposures. BMJ digs into leaked emails about inconsistencies in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. And Serimmune launches a new COVID Antibody Epitope Mapping service.


Top Research News

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggest that the three new, fast-spreading variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 can evade antibodies that work against the original form of the virus. With few exceptions, whether such antibodies were produced in response to vaccination or natural infection, or were purified antibodies intended for use as drugs, the researchers found more antibody is needed to neutralize the new variants. Their research was all done in vitro, but they warned that new cocktails of antibodies will be needed to confer protection from new variants. As antibodies binding to spike receptor-binding domain and N-terminal domain demonstrate diminished neutralization potency in vitro against some emerging variants, updated monoclonal antibody cocktails targeting highly conserved regions, enhancement of monoclonal antibody potency or adjustments to the spike sequences of vaccines may be needed to prevent loss of protection, they write. The work was published in Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/s41591-021-01294-w

In a journalist-written feature at BMJ, Serena Tinari explores the leaked documents showing that some early commercial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech’s covid-19 vaccine had lower than expected levels of intact mRNA. BMJ—and other journalists and academics—were sent copies of leaked emails from the European Medicines Agency’s review of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Among the emails were worries about a range of issues, most notably that there was “a significant difference” in percentage of intact mRNA between clinical batches and proposed commercial batches. EMA ultimately approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.n627


Top Industry News

Working in partnership with Serimmune, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki of Yale successfully found that the B.1.1.7 variant (commonly known as the UK variant) is unlikely to escape antibodies generated against linear epitopes in prior SARS-CoV-2 infections. This vital finding between Yale and Serimmune directly led to a new COVID Antibody Epitope Mapping service from Serimmune. The offering now provides academic and biopharma researchers with ready access to Serimmune’s proprietary Serum Epitope Repertoire Analysis (SERA) technology. Requiring only 100 ul of serum or plasma per sample, Serimmune analyzes each sample for IgG and/or IgM antibodies using its proprietary, 10-billion-member, random, bacterial peptide display library.  In addition to providing a composite score of the antibody epitopes identified in each sample to those observed in cohorts of individuals with mild, moderate and severe COVID-19 disease, the service provides single amino acid resolution epitope data across the entire SARS-CoV-2 proteome for each sample and shows how it compares to a large cohort of pre-pandemic controls and SARS-COV-2 positive samples; all in an easy-to-interpret, interactive html format. Press release.