Singapore could be seeing some good news soon.
Local defence research and development organisation DSO National Laboratories (DSO) unveiled on 17 Jun that it had discovered five antibodies to neutralise COVID-19's ability to infect and multiply in cells, and was preparing for clinical trials.
These antibodies were isolated from blood samples of recovered COVID-19 patients - assuring a high degree of patient safety and efficacy which are critical factors for clinical trials.
"Administration of an antibody obtained from a recovered individual transfers that person's immunity to the recipient, enabling any patient to better fight the infection and recover faster," explained Dr Conrad Chan, Principal Research Scientist and Laboratory Director (Applied Molecular Technology) from DSO.
"As antibodies remain in the system for close to a month, they can also be administered to prevent infection."
DSO scientists spent the last three months testing the five antibodies in the laboratory. In particular, the first two were isolated for testing within a month of receiving blood samples from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Singapore General Hospital.
Results showed that all five antibodies were potent in blocking infection, and effective against key mutations that have emerged in the virus during the pandemic.
Following this finding, DSO, as part of a Whole-of-Government collaborative effort involving agencies such as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health and the Economic Development Board, has brought together a Singapore-based consortium comprising government agencies, research institutes and biomedical companies to quickly move the research on to clinical trials.
Upon approval from the Health Sciences Authority, human trials for the lead antibody, AOD01, will commence in the coming months. Manufacturing capabilities will also be scaled up on provision of therapeutic antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients once clinical trials have successfully been completed.
As antibodies remain in the human system for close to a month and can also be administered to prevent infections, Dr Chan said: "We want to give it to people before they become seriously ill, so that, ideally, we do not see anyone in the ICU...by preventing people from going into ICU, you prevent an overload of hospital resources."
DSO Chief Executive Officer Cheong Chee Hoo said that although the discovery was still in the experimental phase, it was an important milestone in Singapore's fight against COVID-19.
"With an effective treatment, people will be more assured as they can be treated immediately and can expect to make a faster recovery. This prevents our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, and normalises our daily routine as we continue to live and interact as a community."