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COVID antibody research conducted at VUMC lands national award

Aug. 24, 2022, 1:31 PM

Shown here is the research team that discovered monoclonal antibodies that protect against COVID-19 in high-risk individuals.
Shown here is the research team that discovered monoclonal antibodies that protect against COVID-19 in high-risk individuals. (Kristi Irving Photography)

by Bill Snyder

A long-acting antibody combination discovered at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that protects against COVID-19 in high-risk individuals, and which was optimized and developed by the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, has received a gold medal in the 2022 R&D 100 awards program announced Aug. 22 by R&D World Magazine.

Now in its 60th year, the R&D 100 recognizes the 100 most innovative applications of research and development in science introduced to the market in the previous year. The antibody entry was submitted by the Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization on behalf of VUMC, Vanderbilt University and AstraZeneca.

The monoclonal antibodies were discovered by James E. Crowe Jr., MD, Robert Carnahan, PhD, and colleagues in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC), months after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States in January 2020. Six antibodies were licensed in June 2020 to AstraZeneca for optimization and advancement into clinical trials.

In December 2021, AstraZeneca’s two-antibody combination, Evusheld, was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years and older with compromised immune systems or a history of severe adverse reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re grateful that the research and development community has recognized the teams at Vanderbilt and AstraZeneca that put forth so much effort under adverse circumstances in 2020 to bring this antibody drug to approval,” said Crowe, Ann Scott Carell Professor and professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology.

“Fortunately, the antibodies are still bringing benefit to patients at risk of severe infection,” he said.

The R&D 100 were selected by a distinguished international panel of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs from industry, government and academia, and senior editors from Cleveland, Ohio-based WTWH Media LLC, which includes R&D World.

Evusheld received the gold medal in the Special Recognition category, “Battling COVID-19.” The 2022 R&D 100 awards will be presented Nov. 17 at a gala banquet in San Diego.

This is the fifth time in the past six years that Vanderbilt has received an R&D 100 award.

Vanderbilt engineers won in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 for development of a 96-well plate for drug delivery, toxicology research, and personalized medicine; an FDA-approved, lightweight exoskeleton for people with paraplegia; a handheld surgical optical imaging technology; and a transformative carbon nanotube manufacturing technique.

The research at VUMC that led to the development of Evusheld was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund at Vanderbilt.

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