Development of COVID-19 Neutralizer for All Kinds of Variants
Development of COVID-19 Neutralizer for All Kinds of Variants
  • Reporter Yoon Ju-Hwan
  • 승인 2022.11.13 01:10
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▲Performance evaluation results of hybrid neutralizers for each variant

 As unpredictable variants with stronger infectivity appear, the COVID-19 pandemic seems endless. While cases of Omicron variants reported so far reach about 300 kinds, researchers recently found a clue in developing the medicine that will neutralize all variants.
 A research team led by Professor Oh, Seung Soo (MSE) developed a customized growth neutralizer of COVID-19 that adapts to variants by itself and becomes more effective over time. This neutralizer is designed to exhibit a stronger effect by utilizing viruses' evolving infectiousness.
 The reason that the infectivity becomes stronger as new variants appear is that the viral variants evolve by changing their structures to recognize angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (hACE2), a human membrane protein, with a higher affinity. Previous medicines and neutralizers have a critical limitation in that it is hard to immediately respond to these new variants.
 The team found an innovative way to inhibit the infection by imitating the principle of hotspot (major binding site) interaction between the virus and hACE2. A hybrid neutralizer that consists of a protein fragment and an oligonucleotide prevents cellular invasion by binding to a virus instead of the membrane receptor.
 This neutralizer has drawn attention because it is devised based on the team’s own in vitro evolution technology called HOLD (Hotspot-Oriented Ligand Display). HOLD is a technology that sorts out the best candidate capable of recognizing a target virus among random molecules (~1,015). It is based on natural selection, the theory that individuals suitable for the environment are survive better.
 According to the results, the neutralizer has an excellent neutralizing effect for not only other variants but also the most infectious Omicron variants. In particular, the neutralization of Omicron is five times more effective than that of the initial coronavirus. 
 Prof. Oh evaluated that it is meaningful to actualize this development of the novel neutralizer with binding tolerance to all kinds of variants for the first time. Lee Min-jong (integrated course, MSE) plans to expand it in responding to future pandemics caused by other fatal viruses.
 Meanwhile, this study, published in the international multidisciplinary journal, Science Advances on Sept. 26, was conducted with the support of Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics.