La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), one of the leading research organizations dedicated to studying the immune system announced today that it has signed a licensing agreement with Leinco Technologies, a premier developer and manufacturer of leading-edge recombinant proteins, antibodies and conjugates. Leinco also provides custom manufacturing services to the diagnostic and biopharmaceutical industries to leverage proprietary COVID-19 antibodies developed at LJI.
Under the terms of the agreement, Leinco will gain exclusive access to certain SARS-CoV-2 antibodies directed against the virus’ nucleocapsid (N) protein, which forms the virus’ inner shell. In addition to developing the antibodies for use in diagnostic applications based on N protein-specific antibodies, Leinco will make these antibodies commercially available as part of their extensive catalogue of research tools.
Most first generation COVID-19 vaccines are exclusively directed at the spike (S) protein on the virus surface, but the N protein is just as efficient in eliciting a strong antibody response. But most importantly, the N protein appears to be less prone to accumulating mutations than the S protein, for which a number of novel mutations have been reported over the course of the pandemic.
Since currently distributed vaccines only induce antibodies against the S protein, the presence of antibodies against N allows doctors to distinguish between immune responses that resulted from an infection with SARS-CoV-2 versus a S protein-based vaccine.
“Partnering with La Jolla Institute for Immunology is a wonderful opportunity to screen, develop and scale up manufacturing of SARS-CoV-2 reagents, specifically antibodies targeting the N Protein”, says Wm. Pat Leinert Sr., president and CEO of Leinco Technologies. “With La Jolla’s extensive knowledge in infectious diseases and Leinco’s novel protein expression platform, combined, we are capable of bringing high quality reagents and diagnostic tools to the masses and further SARS-CoV-2 research and treatment options.”
These antibodies are the result of a powerful molecular discovery pipeline at LJI developed by structural immunologists Kathryn Hastie, Ph.D., and Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D. Saphire is a professor in the Center of Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research and director of a of an international consortium to evaluate antibody therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 to prevent and treat COVID-19 (covic.lji.org).
“The high-resolution view of the interaction surface between virus and immune system, where the rubber meets the road, combined with precision engineering of the molecules involved, allowed us discover and develop these antibodies,” says Dr. Saphire, whose research zooms in on the host-pathogen interface at a molecular level to understand how immune defense can conquer and control viruses.
“Personally, it is satisfying to know that antibodies developed with the unique expertise that my team members bring to the table will provide tools that healthcare professionals, diagnostic labs and other researchers so urgently need to track and treat COVID-19.” Discovery pipelines against other diseases are underway.