As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives, a group of researchers is working to get ahead of the next killer pathogen.
They aim to identify and establish a bank of warrior antibodies in Maryland, close to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The antibodies would be derived from a who’s who of viruses most likely to wreak havoc, such as coronaviruses, influenzas, and flaviviruses that cause Zika and debilitating conditions such as encephalitis.
These are the same types of lab-made monoclonal antibodies derived from survivors’ blood that are being used to treat early cases of COVID-19 and prevent new ones.
“The idea is we use this stuff to manage any early pandemic, to prevent it from getting out of control,” said Dr. James Crowe, a longtime infectious disease expert who founded the initiative, called Ahead100, and is director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We know we can make these fast,” he said. “But what’s fast? That led to the idea of making them ahead of time so we had them on Day Zero.”