IIBR research and development concerning environmental sciences ranges from numerical modeling to laboratory and field experiments in the areas of meteorology and atmospheric contaminants. IIBR has developed capabilities that enable detection and identification of hazardous materials, weather and dispersion prediction, physical protection and evaluation of potential risks.
During the visit, IIBR leading scientists gave an update about the scientific developments and the following steps on the way to develop a vaccine and a treatment for the Corona virus.
The need for antiviral drugs is real and relevant. Antiviral drugs with a broad spectrum have a particular advantage dealing with emerging disease outbreaks, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers at IIBR examined the antiviral effect of two specific inhibitors of GlucosylCeramide synthase (GCS): (1). an analogue of the FDA-approved drug Cerdelga®, (2) an analogue of venglustat which is currently under phase III clinical trials. They found that both inhibitors inhibit the replication of four different enveloped RNA viruses of different genus, organ-target and transmission route. The fact that these inhibitors have an antiviral effect on viruses of four different families, suggesting a key role of the glycosphingolipid synthesis pathway in viral infection. Targeting host proteins or pathways utilized by multiple viruses is less prone to the development of resistance to the drug through mutations. Analogues of the specific compounds tested have already been studied clinically, implying they can be fast-tracked for public use and may be particularly relevant to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
IIBR, using its Biology division's well-established platform for antibody engineering, have managed to isolate monoclonal antibody against the virus, from blood samples that were obtain from severe COVID19 patients. It was also demonstrated that this antibody was able to effectively neutralize the virus. Parallel efforts are being made worldwide. Some have managed to isolate antibodies that neutralize other closely related viruses and even anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies, but IIBR is the first to demonstrate that the antibody that was isolated from COVID19 patient can indeed neutralize this pathogen. IIBR will continue to characterize this antibody and others and a biological manufacture would be sought to mass produce it for clinical use.
IIBR researchers found that in heat conditions, characterized by the Israeli summer, the virus can survive on the surfaces for several hours compared to a few days at lower temperatures. In their opinion, there is no need for extensive disinfecting of the public spaces towards returning to the work routine
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