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Israel isolates coronavirus antibody in ‘significant breakthrough’

Israel has isolated a key coronavirus antibody at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said, calling it a "significant breakthrough". "The monoclonal neutralising antibody...can neutralise the disease-causing coronavirus inside carriers' bodies," he added.

Israeli scientists have made a ‘significant breakthrough’ in developing antibody against coronavirus by isolated a key COVID-19 antibody, said Israeli defence minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on Monday (May 5). The “monoclonal neutralising antibody” developed at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) “can neutralise it (the disease-causing coronavirus) inside carriers’ bodies,” said the Defence Minister in a statement.

Bennett visited the labs of Israel’s Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), supervised by the Prime Minister’s Office and mandated to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, in Ness Ziona on Monday and was shown the “antibody that attacks the virus in a monoclonal way and can neutralize it within the bodies of those ill”, a statement from his office said.

The statement said that the antibody’s development had been completed and that 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.

“I am proud of the institute staff for this terrific breakthrough,” Bennett said, adding that “their creativity and the Jewish mind brought about this amazing achievement”.

Quoting medical sources, Israeli daily Ha’aretz had reported in March that scientists at the institute had made a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine.

It was not immediately clear if the breakthrough presented to Bennett was in addition to progress that was reported in late March, and no further details were provided. The statement also did not specify whether human trials were conducted.

The IIBR was established in 1952 as part of the Israel Defence Forces’ Science Corps and later became a civilian organization. It is technically under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office but is in close communication with the Defence Ministry.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have ordered the institute to devote resources to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 on February 1.

Notably, the normal process to develop such a vaccine requires a long process of pre-clinical trials on animals, followed by clinical trials. This period allows for a full characterization of side effects and a better understanding of how different populations are affected.

Earlier in February, five shipments of virus samples arrived in Israel from Japan, Italy and other countries, news portal Ynet reported, said a PTI report adding that they were brought by a specially secured Defence Ministry courier to IIBR and had been frozen at -80 degrees Celsius.

Experts believe that the length of time needed to develop a vaccine runs from a few months to a year and a half. Numerous research teams all over the world are participating in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

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