Bispecific antibodies for the treatment of co-circulating flaviviruses and antibody derivatives for diagnostics in checkpoint immunotherapy
Flaviviruses (FVs) are among the most medically important arboviruses of the world with the Dengue virus (DENV) accounting for a large percentage of infections observed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Globalization, travel, and the expanding range of mosquito vectors, such as Aedes aegypti, have increased the potential of infection rates and illnesses associated with FVs.
The DENV and the Zika (ZIKV) FVs frequently co-circulate and generally cause mild self-liming febrile illnesses. However, a secondary infection with a heterologous DENV serotype may lead to life threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS). DHF/DSS have been linked to antibody dependent enhancement of infection (ADE), a phenomenon that occurs when antibodies (Abs) formed against an initial infection with one serotype of DENV cross-reacts but does not neutralize a heterologous DENV serotype in a secondary infection. Furthermore, Abs raised against the ZIKV have been observed to cross-react with the DENV and vice versa, which can potentially cause ADE and lead to severe DENV disease. The ZIKV can be transmitted vertically and has been linked to devastating congenital defects such as microcephaly in newborns. FDA approved treatments do not exist for DENV and ZIKV illnesses. Thus, there is a need for safe and effective treatments for these co-circulating viruses. Here, a tetravalent bispecific antibody (bsAb) targeting the ZIKV and all four serotypes of the DENV was expressed in the Nicotiana benthamiana (N. benthamiana) plant. Functional assays of the DENV/ZIKV bsAb demonstrated binding, neutralization, and a significant reduction in ADE activity against both the DENV and the ZIKV.
A single chain variable fragment (scFv) and a diabody based on an antibody directed against the immune checkpoint inhibitor PD-L1, were also expressed in N. benthamiana leaves. The smaller sizes of the scFv and diabody confers them with the ability to penetrate deeper tissues making them beneficial in diagnostics, imaging, and possibly cancer therapy. The past few decades has seen long strives in recombinant protein production in plants with significant improvements in production, safety, and efficacy. These characteristics make plants an attractive platform for the production of recombinant proteins, biologics, and therapeutics.