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Technique hastens COVID-19 antibody discovery

Mar. 10, 2022, 2:30 PM

by Bill Snyder

Optimization of a technique developed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center enables rapid and efficient identification of multiple neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, Ivelin Georgiev, PhD, and colleagues reported March 3 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The technique, called LIBRA-seq (Linking B-cell Receptor to Antigen Specificity through sequencing), simultaneously maps in a high-throughput way the genetic sequences of antibodies and the identities of the viral antigens they target.

In the case of COVID-19, the goal is to identify antibodies that block the viral “spike” protein (the antigen) from binding to a specific cell-surface protein (the ligand), thus thwarting infection.

To improve the ability to discover such antibodies, the researchers modified the LIBRA-seq technique by labeling both antigen and ligand with DNA “barcodes.” This enabled them to identify, in a single high-throughput sequencing experiment, B cells capable of producing highly potent antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 antigen.

The modification, called LIBRA-seq with ligand blocking, “can provide critical advantages for rapid development of therapeutic and preventive countermeasures,” they concluded.

The research was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants AI131722, AI157155 and AI127521, the Hays Foundation COVID-19 Research Fund, Fast Grants, the Welch Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund at Vanderbilt, and the Mercatus Center of George Mason University. 

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