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Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-327009


The recently emerged B.1.1.529 (Omicron) SARS-CoV-2 variant has a highly divergent spike (S) glycoprotein. We compared the functional properties of B.1.1.529 S with those of previous globally prevalent SARS-CoV-2 variants, D614G and B.1.617.2. Relative to these variants, B.1.1.529 S exhibits decreased processing, resulting in less efficient syncytium formation and lower S incorporation into virus particles. Nonetheless, B.1.1.529 S supports virus infection equivalently. B.1.1.529 and B.1.617.2 S glycoproteins bind ACE2 with higher affinity than D614G S. The unliganded B.1.1.529 S trimer is less stable at low temperatures than the other SARSCoV-2 spikes, a property related to spike conformation. Upon ACE2 binding, the B.1.1.529 S trimer sheds S1 at 37 degrees but not at 0 degrees C. B.1.1.529 pseudoviruses are relatively resistant to neutralization by sera from convalescent COVID-19 patients and vaccinees. These properties of the B.1.1.529 spike glycoprotein likely influence the transmission, cytopathic effects and immune evasion of this emerging variant.

Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326824


The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) was only recently detected in southern Africa, but its subsequent spread has been extensive, both regionally and globally1. It is expected to become dominant in the coming weeks2, probably due to enhanced transmissibility. A striking feature of this variant is the large number of spike mutations3 that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccines and antibody therapies4. This concern is amplified by the findings from our study. We found B.1.1.529 to be markedly resistant to neutralization by serum not only from convalescent patients, but also from individuals vaccinated with one of the four widely used COVID-19 vaccines. Even serum from persons vaccinated and boosted with mRNA-based vaccines exhibited substantially diminished neutralizing activity against B.1.1.529. By evaluating a panel of monoclonal antibodies to all known epitope clusters on the spike protein, we noted that the activity of 17 of the 19 antibodies tested were either abolished or impaired, including ones currently authorized or approved for use in patients. In addition, we also identified four new spike mutations (S371L, N440K, G446S, and Q493R) that confer greater antibody resistance to B.1.1.529. The Omicron variant presents a serious threat to many existing COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, compelling the development of new interventions that anticipate the evolutionary trajectory of SARS-CoV-2.

Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326792


The devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2 has made clear the importance of pandemic preparedness. To address future zoonotic outbreaks due to related viruses in the sarbecovirus subgenus, we identified a human monoclonal antibody, 10-40, that neutralized or bound all sarbecoviruses tested in vitro and protected against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV in vivo. Comparative studies with other receptor-binding domain (RBD)-directed antibodies showed 10-40 to have the greatest breadth against sarbecoviruses and thus its promise as an agent for pandemic preparedness. Moreover, structural analyses on 10-40 and similar antibodies not only defined an epitope cluster in the inner face of the RBD that is well conserved among sarbecoviruses, but also uncovered a new antibody class with a common CDRH3 motif. Our analyses also suggested that elicitation of this class of antibodies may not be overly difficult, an observation that bodes well for the development of a pan-sarbecovirus vaccine.

Journal of Virology ; 95(14):16, 2021.
Article in English | Web of Science | ID: covidwho-1486522


We describe a mammalian cell-based assay to identify coronavirus 3CL protease (3CLpro) inhibitors. This assay is based on rescuing protease-mediated cytotoxicity and does not require live virus. By enabling the facile testing of compounds across a range of 15 distantly related coronavirus 3CLpro enzymes, we identified compounds with broad 3CLpro-inhibitory activity. We also adapted the assay for use in compound screening and in doing so uncovered additional severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) 3CLpro inhibitors. We observed strong concordance between data emerging from this assay and those obtained from live virus testing. The reported approach democratizes the testing of 3CLpro inhibitors by developing a simplified method for identifying coronavirus 3CLpro inhibitors that can be used by the majority of laboratories, rather than the few with extensive biosafety infrastructure. We identified two lead compounds, GC376 and compound 4, with broad activity against all 3CL proteases tested, including 3CLpro enzymes from understudied zoonotic coronaviruses. IMPORTANCE Multiple coronavirus pandemics have occurred over the last 2 decades. This has highlighted a need to be proactive in the development of therapeutics that can be readily deployed in the case of future coronavirus pandemics. We developed and validated a simplified cell-based assay for the identification of chemical inhibitors of 3CL proteases encoded by a wide range of coronaviruses. This assay is reporter free, does not require specialized biocontainment, and is optimized for performance in high-throughput screening. By testing reported 3CL protease inhibitors against a large collection of 3CL proteases with variable sequence similarity, we identified compounds with broad activity against 3CL proteases and uncovered structural insights into features that contribute to their broad activity. Furthermore, we demonstrated that this assay is suitable for identifying chemical inhibitors of pro teases from families other than 3CL proteases.

PubMed; 2021.
Preprint in English | PubMed | ID: ppcovidwho-7535


The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the globe, and its causative agent, SARS-CoV-2, continues to rage. Prospects of ending this pandemic rest on the development of effective interventions. Two monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutics have received emergency use authorization, and more are in the pipeline. Furthermore, multiple vaccine constructs have shown promise, including two with ~95% protective efficacy against Covid-19. However, these interventions were directed toward the initial SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in 2019. Considerable viral evolution has occurred since, including variants with a D614G mutation that have become dominant. Viruses with this mutation alone do not appear to be antigenically distinct, however. Recent emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 in the UK and B.1.351 in South Africa is of concern because of their purported ease of transmission and extensive mutations in the spike protein. We now report that B.1.1.7 is refractory to neutralization by most mAbs to the N-terminal domain (NTD) of spike and relatively resistant to a number of mAbs to the receptor-binding domain (RBD). It is modestly more resistant to convalescent plasma (~3 fold) and vaccinee sera (~2 fold). Findings on B.1.351 are more worrisome in that this variant is not only refractory to neutralization by most NTD mAbs but also by multiple potent mAbs to the receptor-binding motif on RBD, largely due to an E484K mutation. Moreover, B.1.351 is markedly more resistant to neutralization by convalescent plasma (~11-33 fold) and vaccinee sera (~6.5-8.6 fold). B.1.351 and emergent variants with similar spike mutations present new challenges for mAb therapy and threaten the protective efficacy of current vaccines.