Israel has developed a key COVID-19 antibody at its main biological research laboratory, the country's Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said, calling the step a "significant breakthrough" towards a possible treatment for the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a statement from Bennett's office, the "monoclonal neutralising antibody" developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) "can neutralise it (the disease-causing coronavirus) inside carriers' bodies". The IIBR is a secretive unit in Ness Ziona that works under the Prime Minister’s Office.
The statement said the vaccine’s development had been completed. The institute was in the process of patenting the find “and in the next stage, researchers will approach international companies to produce the antibody on a commercial scale”, reported the Times of Israel.
The IIBR has been leading Israeli efforts to develop a treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus, including the testing of blood from those who recovered from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. The highly-contagious virus has so far killed at least 235 people in the country and infected more than 16,000, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.
Antibodies in such samples -- immune-system proteins that are residues of successfully overcoming the coronavirus -- are widely seen as a key to developing a possible cure.
The antibody reported as having been isolated at the IIBR is monoclonal, meaning it was derived from a single recovered cell and is thus potentially of more potent value in yielding a treatment.
Elsewhere, there have been coronavirus treatments developed from antibodies that are polyclonal, or derived from two or more cells of different ancestry, the magazine Science Direct reported in its May issue.
Israel was one of the first countries to close its borders and impose increasingly stringent restrictions on movement to hamper the domestic coronavirus outbreak. It has reported 16,246 cases and 235 deaths from the illness.
This comes as about 100 research groups around the world are pursuing vaccines, with nearly a dozen in early stages of human trials or poised to start. But so far there’s no way to predict which -- if any -- vaccine will work safely, or even to name a front-runner.
Dr Anthony Fauci, top US infectious disease expert, has cautioned that even if everything goes perfectly, developing a vaccine in 12 to 18 months would set a record for speed.