DARPA P3 Researchers Race to Create Treatment for the Novel Coronavirus

Misook Choe, a Laboratory Manager with the Emerging Infectious Disease branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, conducts studies in order to find a solution for the Coronavirus, March 3, 2020. Courtesy: DoD

Researchers working under DARPA’s Pandemic Preparedness Platform (P3) are racing to apply their experimental techniques to a true pandemic playing out in real time.

The clock begins ticking as soon as a blood sample is taken from a person who has fully recovered from the disease of interest. Then the researchers screen that sample to find all the protective antibodies the person’s body has made to fight off the virus or bacteria. They use modeling and bioinformatics to choose the antibody that seems most effective at neutralizing the pathogen, and then determine the genetic sequence that codes for the creation of that particular antibody. That snippet of genetic code can then be manufactured quickly and at scale, and injected into people.

This approach is much faster than manufacturing the antibodies themselves. Once the genetic snippets are delivered by an injection, “your body becomes the bioreactor” that creates the antibodies. The P3 program’s goal is to have protective levels of the antibodies circulating within 6 to 24 hours.

Read the more by Eliza Strickland at IEEE Spectrum

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