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Scripps Research in La Jolla makes breakthrough in fighting future pandemics

“We could stockpile these types of antibodies, so that in case of a new pandemic emerges, we could use them to treat people,” said Dr. Raiees Andrabi.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An incredible new discovery could help develop a broad coronavirus vaccine.

Scientists at Scripps Research found that this vaccine could cover more strains of the virus and could also help treat patients and prevent future pandemics.

Imagine if another pandemic were to hit and hospitals already had a treatment.

“We could stockpile these types of antibodies, so that in case of a new pandemic emerges, we could use them to treat people,” said Dr. Raiees Andrabi, Institute Investigator in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research.

He is the senior co-author of a study published on February 8 in the Science Translational Medicine that identified the vulnerable site at the base of the spike protein on multiple coronaviruses that could be targeted to prevent future pandemics. 

“It does definitely give us a lot of leverage into how we can develop these broad coronavirus vaccines to tackle SARS, COVID variants and potential future coronaviruses,” said Andrabi.

In 2020 scientists previously isolated an antibody from a COVID-19 survivor that can neutralize other beta coronaviruses that include SARS-CoV-1 that killed nearly 800 people mostly in Asia over two year period in 2002, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in 2012 that killed 900 people.

While there were not nearly as many deaths as the more than 5 million people who have died worldwide from SARS CoV-2 or COVID-19, these are viruses that are remembered and that could evolve and spread from animals to humans.

“The site that we have identified here will allow us is to develop vaccines, those will be effective even against those viruses that may spill over into humans in future,” said Andrabi.

This is one very important breakthrough in a long process but one that could better protect against COVID-19 and its variants but also for doctors treating patients in a future pandemic.

“If we develop vaccines that could evoke those types of antibodies by vaccination, then we will have vaccines ahead of the time, so that we are prepared for the next potential pandemic,” said Andrabi.

Scientists say The study will facilitate development of broad coronavirus vaccines, but development of those vaccine may take some time.

WATCH RELATED: Scripps Health predicts omicron surge to wind down by early March (February 2022)

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