UK BIA Antibody Taskforce


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Novel COVID-19 Antibody Therapy Candidates Identified by Leading UK Biotech Consortium

29 October 2020. The UK BIA Antibody Taskforce is a leading UK consortium developing antibodies to treat COVID-19. The Taskforce has identified differentiated antibody combinations that will be taken forward for further development as a potential antibody “cocktail.” The Taskforce developed an accelerated and rigorous approach to create a pool of over 600 novel candidates, identified a set of antibodies with the greatest potential. The next phase of the project will involve manufacturing of the selected antibody cocktails to support initial clinical trials in 2021, to provide essential safety and efficacy data.

Please see the full press release here.



About the UK BIA Antibody Taskforce

The Taskforce is a world-leading consortium of biotech companies, charities and academia experts based across the UK who share a joint commitment to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributing their expertise and specialist resources, the team is working together to rapidly identify the most promising antibodies with the potential to positively impact treatment of those affected by this devastating virus.

The goal of the Taskforce is to develop an antibody-based treatment for patients with COVID-19, which could also potentially work as a preventative therapy for high-risk individuals and complement the current vaccination strategy. As part of a global hub for the life sciences, the UK BIA Antibody Taskforce wants to truly make a difference to people's lives.

Taskforce Members:

Abcam is a global life sciences company that identifies, develops, and distributes high-quality biological reagents and tools that are crucial to research, drug discovery and diagnostics. It is contributing both programme management resource and the use of its proprietary antibody technology in addition to antibody design and assessment expertise. The in-house team are running antibody expression and screening for promising candidates as part of the programme’s multi-pronged approach to ensure rapid success. This is contributing to the identification of recombinant monoclonal antibodies to critical SARS-CoV-2 targets which can be scaled for manufacturing.

Absolute Antibody is a recombinant antibody supplier and CRO specializing in antibody sequencing, engineering and recombinant production. Absolute Antibody’s proprietary transient expression system is proven to rapidly manufacture antibodies at up to gram scales, including human antibodies sequenced from convalescent coronavirus patients. Absolute Antibody is supporting development of a transient GMP production platform to enable rapid evaluation of antibody candidates in the clinic.

Alchemab is using its cutting-edge antibody platform to identify clusters of protective antibodies from patient samples. The approach taken is unbiased, meaning that it has potential to identify therapeutic antibodies with a range of functions including spike-binding, non-spike binding and protective auto-antibodies. The team have identified more than 140 antibody candidates which are being evaluated as part of the BIA Antibody Taskforce. 

BIA is the trade association for innovative life sciences in the UK. Our goal is to secure the UK's position as a global hub and as the best location for innovative research and commercialisation, enabling our world-leading research base to deliver healthcare solutions that can truly make a difference to people's lives. We are providing the secretariat for the Antibody Taskforce.

CPI is a leading independent technology innovation centre and a founding member of the UK Government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. It has been supporting the UK BIA Taskforce with manufacturing-related consulting services. CPI supports businesses to accelerate the development of new medicines by supporting the design, development, optimisation and demonstration of bespoke manufacturing processes. It specialises in manufacturing solutions for a range of biotherapeutics including monoclonal antibodies, viral vectors, recombinant proteins, microbial therapeutics and nanomedicines.

Imperial College London - Researchers at Imperial College London, in the Department of Infectious Disease, are actively researching the virology of SARS-CoV-2 and developing vaccines, diagnostics and clinical trials for COVID-19. Working with the UK BIA Antibody Taskforce, Imperial College and Kymab have collaborated to discover novel potent antibodies and test their ability to inhibit infection by the virus in the laboratory.

IONTAS is a biotechnology company focused on human antibody discovery and cutting-edge technology development directed toward protein-based drug discovery. IONTAS offers services for antibody discovery using phage display which allows isolation of antibody genes from massive libraries based on the encoded binding properties of the antibody gene. IONTAS also uses its proprietary Mammalian Display Technology where antibodies are displayed on the surface of a mammalian cell, allowing antibody gene selection based on binding properties as well as developability characteristics. IONTAS has used its proprietary phage and Mammalian Display Technologies to directly select high affinity neutralising human antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from convalescent.

Kymab is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a deep pipeline of novel antibody-based therapies in a broad range of indications. The Company generates its product candidates using its proprietary, integrated platforms collectively called IntelliSelect®. Kymab’s platforms have been designed to maximize the diversity of human antibodies produced in response to immunization with antigens. Selecting from a broad diversity of fully human antibodies allows for the identification of antibodies with optimal drug-like properties.

LifeArc is a medical research charity with a successful track record in therapeutic antibodies. LifeArc’s role in Taskforce has been to help screen, analyse, test and characterise the antibody candidates submitted, helping to identify the final candidates with the greatest efficacy and suitability for manufacturing at scale. This has included computational support for the analysis of antibody sequences, expression and purification resource for antibody candidates, functional testing and an assessment of suitability for immediate progression of lead candidate(s) to manufacturing. 

University of Kent - Nigel Temperton from Viral Pseudotype Unit (VPU) and his team have designed a SARS-CoV-2 pseudotype virus (PV) as a safe synthetic mimic for deployment in pre-clinical research workflows.

University of Oxford - Researchers at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, led by Professor Gavin Screaton, have been isolating B cells from recovered COVID-19 patients, and using them to make monoclonal antibodies (mAb), each specific for slightly different parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Using recombinant antibodies produced in the lab, the researchers are then able to test whether these antibodies bind to the virus. Those that bind most strongly to parts of the virus that block viral infections are then ideal candidates to use as an antiviral therapy. In addition, the team tested the ability of mAbs produced by the TaskForce to neutralise SARS-CoV-2 leading to the selection of the lead candidates.

Taskforce Steering Committee members:

  • Dr Jane Osbourn OBE, CSO of Alchemab
  • Professor Paul Kellam, VP of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines at Kymab and Professor of Viral Genomics at Imperial College London
  • Dr Paul Varley, VP Biopharmaceutical Development at Kymab
  • Dr John McCafferty, CSO at IONTAS
  • Deirdre Flaherty, VP Programme Management at Abcam
  • Dr Simon Henderson, Director of Toxicology and Non-clinical Safety at Kymab
  • Eric Johnsson, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at BIA


We would like to thank the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) for supporting the Taskforce with the assessment of the antibody candidates, and Osborne Clarke for providing ongoing pro bono legal advice.


For further information about the Taskforce, please contact Eric Johnsson at [email protected]