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Neutralising the Pandemic: Trinity College Dublin researchers develop tool to track immune response to Covid-19 and vaccines against it

Ussher Assistant Professor Gareth Brady, Dr William McCormack and colleagues have published their research on a dynamic, integrated screening system for measuring the effectiveness of antibodies against a key protein from SARS-CoV2. The research was published in Viruses.

The virus uses the Spike protein to bind to a receptor on human cells called ACE2 so it can infect our cells and drive the disease COVID-19. A central tenet of successful immunity against the virus is the appearance of antibodies which block this viral protein binding to ACE2 and entering cells. The group’s test builds on an existing FDA-approved assay protocol from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York for measuring antibody levels and integrates a crucial additional test which calculates how effective these antibodies are at blocking entry of the virus into our cells.

Dr Brady explained the study’s impact:

“The chief impact of our assay will be in ongoing research into how our immune system tackles the virus during infection and how well vaccination works in preventing not only the original pandemic virus but also the emerging viral ‘variants of concern’ such as the Delta variant.”

Dr Brady described how this work will assist in tracking the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines:

“This will be a key tool in tracking not only the immune response to infection with the virus but also the effectiveness of vaccines in their ongoing development. While antibody responses represent only one arm of the immune response against SARS-CoV-2, these tools provide an affordable and versatile option for future research in this area.”

Funded by a joint application between Dr Brady and Dr McCormack for Science Foundation Ireland COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding, this research was an international collaborative effort between the Departments of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at St James's Hospital, as well as Peak Proteins (United Kingdom) and Florian Krammer and Fatima Amanat of the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York.

You can read about this work in detail here: https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/13/7/1371/htm