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Australian biotech firm has found a potential treatment to stop coronavirus

A potential COVID-19 treatment from a biotech firm
Photo: Aussies find affinity with virus treatment
A Melbourne-based biotech firm has found a potential treatment to stop coronavirus infecting healthy people and help sick patients fight it off faster.

A potential COVID-19 treatment which could stop healthy people being infected and speed-up sick patients' recovery has been found in a Melbourne lab.

Affinity Biosciences have produced antibodies which can block the virus from infecting new cells and spreading throughout the body.

The antibodies work by binding tightly to the spike protein on the virus, preventing it from attaching itself to and penetrating healthy human cells.

"A lot of antibodies do that but these have a very high affinity, bind very tightly and smother the virus," Affinity chief executive Peter Smith said.
In healthy patients, the antibodies would prevent the virus gaining a foothold while very sick patients could find themselves healing much faster.

Numerous groups have been chasing antibody-based therapies but the Australian biotechnology firm believes theirs is among the strongest so far.

"What we believe is these are as potent as any we've seen out there," Dr Smith told AAP.

The team also feel they had a moral obligation to join "every antibody company on the planet" in the search for a treatment.

"If we don't do it and there wasn't one found in time and the virus got to the stage where it was overwhelming, we'd be kicking ourselves," he said.

Testing conducted by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in April found Affinity's antibodies blocked the virus 100 per cent by the time the virus just started infecting cells, at around five days.

And unlike a small-molecule drug, which can end up going to unwanted places throughout the body and flush out within a matter of hours, antibodies can stay in the blood for about two weeks.

The treatment's strength also means a smaller dose is needed which Dr Smith hopes will help speed-up manufacturing for clinical trials.

"We're looking at somewhere between three to 12 months but hopefully in around six," Dr Smith said.

The company plans to produce the treatment in Australia, guaranteeing first-access for local patients.

As specialists in antibody research for cancer treatments, Affinity don't stand to make a lot of money off the treatment, Dr Smith said.

The number of infections in Australia are so low it will only take a small amount to help suppress the virus.

"Our purpose now is an economic one, to offer something to help get the borders open and the economy running again."

The antibodies are currently in a comparative study being conducted by the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in California, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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