Scientists at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine and at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Tarrytown, N.Y. have finally validated two possible therapeutics that could become potential treatments for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
"While early, this is very exciting, and has real potential to help MERS patients," Matthew B. Frieman, one of the researchers said, according to Science Daily. "We hope that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus."
The therapeutics, which contain the antibodies REGN3051 and REGN3048, were found to be successful in protecting, treating and neutralizing animal models with viral diseases. The researchers at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. were also able to facilitate genetic engineering and antibody development that has shortened the drug development process, thanks to its VelociGene technology.
"Instead of just trying to invent new drugs, we also invent new technologies that enable us to make new drugs more reliably and more rapidly," says Neil Stahl, Regeneron's executive vice president of research and development, via Technology Review.
Over 1,000 antibodies have been screened by the scientists, who slowly isolated the samples that showed promise. The process usually takes about 18 months, but the drug company was able to achieve this in just under six months.
First discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, MERS is suspected to have spread to humans from camels infected by bats. Last month, South Korea's outbreak has left over 30 people dead and 180 infected, as schools also closed and thousands were quarantined. The disease has reportedly also spread in Thailand; the country's first MERS patient has overcome the virus, as HNGN previously reported.
Researchers say that MERS has a lot of similarities with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are both caused by coronaviruses.
The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Monday.