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1.
biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.01.17.523798

ABSTRACT

Currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants acquired convergent mutations at receptor-binding domain (RBD) hot spots. Their impact on viral infection, transmission, and efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics remains poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that recently emerged BQ.1.1. and XBB.1 variants bind ACE2 with high affinity and promote membrane fusion more efficiently than earlier Omicron variants. Structures of the BQ.1.1 and XBB.1 RBDs bound to human ACE2 and S309 Fab (sotrovimab parent) explain the altered ACE2 recognition and preserved antibody binding through conformational selection. We show that sotrovimab binds avidly to all Omicron variants, promotes Fc-dependent effector functions and protects mice challenged with BQ.1.1, the variant displaying the greatest loss of neutralization. Moreover, in several donors vaccine-elicited plasma antibodies cross-react with and trigger effector functions against Omicron variants despite reduced neutralizing activity. Cross-reactive RBD-directed human memory B cells remained dominant even after two exposures to Omicron spikes, underscoring persistent immune imprinting. Our findings suggest that this previously overlooked class of cross-reactive antibodies, exemplified by S309, may contribute to protection against disease caused by emerging variants through elicitation of effector functions.

2.
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.07.07.451408

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a new set of unprecedented challenges not only for healthcare, education, and everyday jobs but also in terms of academic conferences. In this study, we investigate the effect of the broad adoption of virtual platforms for academic conferences as a response to COVID-19 restrictions. We show that virtual platforms enable higher participation from underrepresented minority groups, increased inclusion, and broader geographic distribution. We also discuss emerging challenges associated with the virtual conference format resulting in a decreased engagement of social activities, limited possibilities of cross-fertilization between participants, and reduced peer-to-peer interactions. Lastly, we conclude that a novel comprehensive approach needs to be adopted by the conference organizers to ensure increased accessibility, diversity, and inclusivity of post-pandemic conferences. Our findings provide evidence favoring a hybrid format for future conferences, marrying the strength of both in-person and virtual platforms.

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