South Korean Researchers Develop Neutralizer for New COVID-19 Strains

The more the virus mutates, the better the effect

South Korean Researchers Develop Neutralizer for New COVID-19 Strains
3D rendered illustration of a mutating virus that causes COVID-19. (James Thew/Adobe Stock)
Lisa Bian

COVID-19 has brought disaster to the world, millions have died, and the virus is still mutating. A medical research group in South Korea recently announced that it has developed an agent that neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the more the virus mutates, the better the neutralizing effect of the agent.

A research team led by Prof. Seung Soo Oh from the Department of Advanced Materials Engineering at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea said on Oct. 27 that they had developed a neutralizer to deal with the mutations of COVID-19.

The team says the reason the COVID virus continues to mutate and become more infectious is that it has a more powerful interaction with the angiotensin-converting enzyme (hACE2) receptor, a cell-surface protein, by constantly changing its structure. A fatal flaw of existing therapeutic and neutralizer technologies is that it is difficult to respond promptly to the emerging mutations.

By mimicking the principle of the "hotspot" interaction between the virus and the hACE2 receptor, the researchers found a way to significantly inhibit cell infection. Mixed neutralizers consisting of protein fragments and nucleic acids prevent the virus from infiltrating cells by tightly binding to the virus.

The neutralizing agent is called "Hotspot-Oriented Ligand Display (HOLD)." HOLD can automatically screen out the most suitable substances for binding to the virus among as many as 10 trillion candidate list substances, researchers claimed.

The research results show that the neutralizer is not only effective against the alpha and delta variants of the virus, but also Omicron, which has the highest rate of infectivity. The agent's ability to neutralize the Omicron mutant virus is about five times higher than its ability to neutralize the initial strains of the virus.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Seung explained the original idea behind ​​carrying out this research: "The COVID virus continues to mutate while the performance of existing therapeutics or neutralizers declines. Given that the virus itself mutates to increase infectivity, the virus binds more strongly to its receptors. Therefore, we considered that this feature can reverse it and carried out this research.

"Through this neutralizer development platform technology, it is the first time in the world to develop a neutralizer that can automatically change and have better performance as the virus mutates," he said.

He also revealed that the technology could work not only against coronaviruses but also against other pathogens, such as influenza viruses.

The research was published on Oct. 26 in the world's authoritative multidisciplinary international academic journal Science Advances.
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