Invest Northern Ireland Grant awarded to industry academia collaboration

Fusion Antibodies and Queen’s University Belfast aim to develop a platform to accelerate the discovery of COVID-19 antibodies

Fusion Antibodies and Queen’s University Belfast have been awarded a £453,000 grant from Invest Northern Ireland to further expand their COVID-19 targeted research and development efforts. Within the framework of their Northern Ireland Coronavirus Antibody Development Alliance (NICADA), the two organisations will use the funds to accelerate the discovery of therapeutic and diagnostic antibodies with anti-infective properties against COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted rising demand for select antibodies, specifically engineered to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while also facilitating diagnostic testing," said Dr Paul Kerr, CEO at Fusion Antibodies. "Since the early stages of the pandemic, Fusion Antibodies has been committed to discovering new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches to help in the fight against this growing threat. The new funding is set to further strengthen NICADA, enabling us to provide the global biopharmaceutical and clinical diagnostics communities with the necessary tools they need to mount an effective COVID-19 response."

Fusion Antibodies and Queen’s University Belfast will be using the grant to create a commercially- competitive antibody development platform. They say the technology will be capable of simultaneously creating COVID-19 antibodies of “unparalleled quality: humanised, affinity- and selectivity-matured, stability- and developability-optimised”. These antibodies will reportedly have a SARS-CoV-2 virus neutralisation ability, while also aiding diagnostic testing efforts.

"At NICADA, we envisage a breakthrough antibody drug therapy targeting SARS-CoV-2 directly," said Ultan Power, Professor of Molecular Virology at The Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast. "The Invest Northern Ireland grant will enable us to exploit our SARS-CoV-2 virology expertise to help generate a new antibody development platform that will allow us to realize this vision, helping us to discover new drug targets to combat the devastating COVID-19 disease."

Fusion Antibodies has designed and expressed a panel of protein antigens for use in discovery platforms in the search for a neutralising therapeutic antibody against SARS-CoV-2. It says the panel of proteins have shown excellent profiles in terms of activity and scalability.

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