Neutralizing Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 Selected from a Human Antibody Library Constructed Decades Ago

October, 2021


Combinatorial antibody libraries not only effectively reduce antibody discovery to a numbers game, but enable documentation of the history of antibody responses in an individual. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has prompted a wider application of this technology to meet the public health challenge of pandemic threats in the modern era. Herein, a combinatorial human antibody library constructed 20 years before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is used to discover three highly potent antibodies that selectively bind SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and neutralize authentic SARS-CoV-2 virus. Compared to neutralizing antibodies from COVID-19 patients with generally low somatic hypermutation (SHM), these three antibodies contain over 13–22 SHMs, many of which are involved in specific interactions in their crystal structures with SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor binding domain. The identification of these somatically mutated antibodies in a pre-pandemic library raises intriguing questions about the origin and evolution of these antibodies with respect to their reactivity with SARS-CoV-2.

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