TEL AVIV – Israel’s Biological Research Institute (IBRI) has made a breakthrough development in isolating an antibody that neutralizes the Chinese coronavirus, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
The Defense Ministry-run IBRI said while it was ahead of the world, it would still be months before a medication was formulated using the antibody.
The drug would also act to combat people already infected with the disease and not as inoculation.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett hailed IBRI’s achievement after a visit to its laboratory Monday.
“I am proud of the Biological Institute staff, who have made a major breakthrough,” said Bennett. “Jewish creativity and ingenuity brought about this amazing achievement.”
“In the next stage, researchers will approach international companies to produce the antibody on a commercial scale,” he said.
According to his ministry, IBRI was the first in the world identify an antibody that destroys the virus. It was also the first lab in the world to target this particular strain of aggressive coronavirus. The antibody is also monoclonal, and has very low risk of harmful proteins.
“As far as we known, according to comprehensive scientific publication from around the world, the Biological Research Institute is the first in the world to achieve this breakthrough in these three parameters at the same time,” the institute said in a statement.
“This is an important milestone, but afterwards comes complicated tests and a process of getting regulatory approval. Per an assessment by the institute’s scientists, this technological breakthrough is poised to shorten the process, which will go on for several months,” the statement said.
Prof Shuki Shemer, the head of Israel’s Assuta Medical Center and a former director general of the Health Ministry, hailed the announcement as a “breakthrough” that boasted “scientific and technological capabilities of the first order.”
“They’ve produced an antibody that neutralizes the virus,” Shemer told Channel 13 on Tuesday evening.
“No other country has done this,” Shemer added.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a $60 million grant (about NIS 210 million) for research teams working on combating the coronavirus.
“Like all countries, Israel is now trying to find the right balance between protecting the health of our citizens by preventing another spike in infections, and enabling the reopening of our economy, but, ultimately, to ensure both the public health and national prosperity, we must all work together on improving diagnostics, accelerating therapies and ultimately developing a vaccine,” he said at a virtual donors event.
“I am confident that Israel’s leading research institutions, its world-renowned scientists and our unique culture of innovation can enable us to play an important role in advancing solutions on all three fronts,” he went on. “We hope to work with other countries to leverage our unique capabilities to find solutions for the benefit of all.”