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Cow antibodies could be newest weapon against COVID-19

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Could a barn full of Holstein mix cows in Sioux Falls, SD help win the fight against the coronavirus?

Could a barn full of dairy cattle in Sioux Falls, SD help win the fight against the coronavirus?

While recovering patients of COVID-19 are donating plasma in hopes it will help other patients recover from the virus, scientists are hoping a herd of dairy cattle, genetically  modified to have a partially human immune system, will be able to produce antibodies to fight against it.

The Sioux Falls biotech firm, SAb Biotherapeutics, believes that repeatedly injecting the bovines with a noninfectious portion of the novel coronavirus to produce antibodies, is a better way to subdue COVID-19 than using convalescent plasma.

Eddie Sullivan, the company's president and CEO, told the Star Tribune that that the process of injecting the cows has resulted in antibodies that neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus and they have already produced clinical material to be used for the upcoming clinical trials.

"And, because we inject the cows over and over again, the animals build up high levels of those neutralizing antibodies, more than what’s found in convalescent plasma," Sullivan told the media outlet.

In lab studies, researchers tested the bovine antibodies against those in convalescent plasma. Rich in polyclonal antibodies, the findings show the cow-made antibodies to be four times more effective in blocking the virus from entering cells than the most potent convalescent plasma they studied, according to the release.

While clinical trials are on the near horizon, Sullivan wants to test whether the antibodies from the robust immune systems of the dairy herd will help prevent healthy people from becoming infected as well as help those already infected.

To date, no antibodies developed from animals have been approved for treating disease in humans.