Penny Moore of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa together with Adriana Bonomo of Fiocruz in Brazil will identify solutions for combating new SARS-CoV-2 variants by developing an in vitro assay to predict new variants and identifying broad specificity antibodies for use as new drugs and diagnostics. Despite the success of vaccines and antibody therapies, the continual emergence of new viral variants, which thwart our immune defenses and therapies, remains a major challenge of the pandemic. They will develop a virus training assay by culturing existing variants with hyper-immune sera from infected individuals in South Africa and Brazil to drive selection of new mutations and identify potential new variants. They will also isolate new monoclonal antibodies directed to conserved cleavage sites of the viral spike protein, which are essential for it to infect cells, that could be used as treatments to block infection by a wide range of variants.
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