Cape Town, South Africa. Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa have now tested antibodies developed by Cape Town biotech company, Afrobodies, against the live virus SARS-CoV-2 variant 501Y.V2, also known as the ‘SA variant’. Several of the antibodies tested clearly demonstrated a neutralising effect on the virus during laboratory testing.
Variant 501Y.V2 has caused concern in South Africa and internationally, due to its increased transmissibility and its potential for ‘immune escape’. The variant was first identified in South Africa in late 2020. It rapidly became the dominant variant during SA’s recent second wave of Covid infections.
The team at the Africa Health Research Institute, led by Dr Alex Sigal, is understood to be the first in the world to outgrow two variants of 501Y.V2. Afrobodies Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Peter Durcan, applauded the scientists at AHPRI, saying:
We feel very privileged that our antibodies were among the first in the world to undergo laboratory testing against the so-called ‘SA variant’ 501Y.V2. Our particular thanks go to Shi-Hsia Hwa who conducted the virus neutralisation tests. This variant was first identified in South Africa, thanks to the sophistication of our country’s genetic sequencing capacity. The toll the variant has taken on our population and economy has been significant. But it’s heartening to think that the tools to tackle it may also come from South African scientific excellence.