Right now, the only RT-PCR based SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus detection takes 4 hours or more. To prevent the pandemic spread of the coronavirus a faster way to detect infected patients is badly needed for effective identification and isolation of infected patients. Today, Academia Sinica (AS) proudly announced that the first ever monoclonal antibody specifically binding nucleocapsid protein (N protein) of the coronavirus has been successfully generated and tested, a work done by Dr. An-Suei Yang and his team at Genome Research Center in AS. If successfully developed and manufactured, the rapid immune based test kit could prove very useful in detecting coronavirus within 20 minutes just like a rapid influenza test.
Racing with Time, Producing Specific Antibody in 19 Days
According to Dr. Yang, a specific antibody against the viral protein is key to this type of rapid detection. His team produced N protein’s antibodies from 7 different viral species and screened to obtain a few dozens of monoclonal antibodies, including one specifically against only SARS-CoV-2 N protein, 9 against only SARS-CoV N protein, and 36 against both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV N proteins. One additional advantage, said Dr. Yang, is that none of these monoclonal antibodies binds against any N proteins of the other 5 strains of coronavirus for the common cold and cross-reactivity will not be a problem for the rapid SARS-CoV-2 detection test.
Proprietary Library with Wide-span Selection
Yang’s lab has been experimenting with AI learning with antibody protein interaction data to develop efficient artificial antibody design based on bacteriophage library platform. The antibody library is grown in bacteria with no need for animal facility, thus controlling consumable cost with less environmental impact, and enhancing chance of successful selection of useful monoclonal antibodies. This hard work resulted in wide span of antibody clones with different characteristics.
Successful Antigen Production as a Cross-discipline Collaboration Effort at AS
President Dr. James C. Liao of AS indicated that, due to efficient cross-discipline collaboration within As, 7 human coronavirus N proteins were produced in mid-February, thus allowing Dr. Yang’s team to move forward with antibody screen, and to test selected antibodies for their specific activities in order to shorten development time of rapid detection kit. Dr. Liao emphasized that, racing against time, AS teams collaborate seamlessly to ensure deliver of a test kit in time for the control of coronavirus spread. Dr. Yang has research in the antibody field for more than 15 years and applies this technology in many other medical and animal disease areas, including the African Swine Fever Virus spread last year, “this time around, hitting target 2 months earlier is extremely exciting”, indicated Dr. Liao.
Coming Soon: Rapid Coronavirus Detection Test Kit Development and Manufacturing
Dr. Yang pointed out that with the help of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the team is discussing with manufacturers regarding product prototype development and manufacturing, and will discuss with the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration for product qualification and certification, and will work with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to quickly bring rapid coronavirus detection kit to Taiwan to fight against this devastating pandemics.
If launched successfully, people can test for coronavirus infection rapidly, often within 15 to 20 minutes, very much like rapid influenza diagnostic test, and quickly obtain results, thus raising chance of fight against coronavirus pandemics.