Cow Acts as Antibody Factory to Fight against COVID-19

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Neucrad Health June 15, 2020

A reputed American biotech company- SAb Biotherapeutics has developed a unique weapon for fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. They have extracted antibodies from genetically modified cows. These therapeutics can successfully eliminate SARS-CoV-2 from the human system. The Biotech Company is now planning to develop medicines from the antibodies and introduce to COVID-19 positive patients. They are looking forward to starting clinical trials of this unique therapy in the summer of 2020. It is a promising development in tackling the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. Let us know more about the latest treatment against SARS-CoV-2.

How are SAB Biotherapeutics developing antibodies in cows?

Many of you would be surprised to learn that, the latest fighters of the COVID-19 pandemic are currently grazing pastures in a South Dakota farm. Yes, you have guessed it right, we are talking about the genetically modified cows. In the past, we have mostly observed that scientists have reached out to cultured cells or tobacco plants for the preparation of antibodies. However, the research and development wing of the SAb Biotherapeutics of Sioux Falls, South Dakota have turned the imagination into reality. They have transformed the hooves of genetically modified dairy cows to pump out human polyclonal antibodies.

While most pharmaceutical companies are now focussing on monoclonal antibodies, SAb Biotherapeutics tried to tread a different path and manufacture polyclonal antibodies. Scientists of this company alter the immune cell of cows so that they can produce vast quantities of human antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. They target the spike protein of the novel coronavirus and eliminate them from the human body. The company have named this unique antibody-based therapeutic as SAB-185.

Why did SAb Biotherapeutics select cows for the development of polyclonal antibodies?

Since decades cows have acted as excellent antibody factories for human beings. One of the primary reasons behind this approach is that these mammals have a higher quantity of blood than smaller animals. Moreover, their blood can deliver twice as many antibodies per millilitre as human blood. William Klimstra from the University of Pittsburgh termed cows as a ‘giant bioreactor’. He has been analysing the efficacy of bovine-made antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. It is convenient to utilise cows for synthesising proteins effective for human use. Unlike, monoclonal antibodies, which firmly attaches to a particular area of the pathogen, the polyclonal antibodies help in identifying multiple molecules of the virus and prevent their propagation.

What do we know about the previous work of SAb Biotherapeutics?

Before initiating work on SaRS-CoV-2 virus, SAb Biotherapeutics had already performed clinical trials on cow-generated antibodies effective against MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). It helped researchers focus on the correct group of antibodies present in the bodies of genetically modified cows. Within a short interval of seven weeks, they could generate antibodies in these animals targeting the SARS-CoV-2’s spike.

How is the efficacy of polyclonal antibodies developed in genetically modified cows?

If you compare the effectiveness of the polyclonal antibodies in cows with that of the convalescent plasma, then the former is four times more successful in eliminating the novel coronavirus. The company spokesperson has made this announcement on May 28, 2020. Before they started with the antibody production programme, the scientists administered a starter immunisation (a DNA vaccine) into the cows’ body. It remains based on the viral genome which genetically engineers their immune system. After this step, the scientists introduce another injection, containing a part of the SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein. If everything goes on as planned, then a single cow can deliver enough doses of polyclonal antibodies for treating more than a hindered COVID-19 positive patients.

Eddie J. Sullivan, PhD, President, CEO and Co-founder of SAb Biotherapeutic, is hopeful that the relentless labour of scientists and pharmacists will bear fruitful results shortly and arrest the outbreak.


1.     This Cow’s Antibodies Could Be the Newest Weapon against COVID-19

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3.     Researchers Use Cows To Develop Antibody Treatment

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