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IIT Madras team develops novel database on Covid antibodies


Chennai, March 20
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have developed an online open-source database of coronaviruses' neutralising antibodies.

The database called 'Ab-CoV' contains detailed information about all Covid-related antibodies identified so far, including the source of each antibody, and the viral protein(s) and virus strains they recognise, the institute said in a statement on Monday.

'Ab-CoV' can also aid in the development of drugs against new variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The Ab-CoV database includes 1,780 coronavirus-related antibodies, including 211 nanobodies, and contains more than 3,200 data points on half maximal inhibitory concentration, half maximal effective concentration and binding affinity.

The information compiled in this database, published in the peer-reviewed journal Bioinformatics, can assist researchers in antibody engineering; analysing immune escape for known and future variants of SARS-CoV-2; computational studies on neutralising antibodies; and relating structural features with binding affinity.

"Some of the data in the Ab-CoV database has already been used to understand the relationship between structural features and binding affinities of spike protein-antibody complexes as well as antibody repurposing," said M. Michael Gromiha, Faculty, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, in the statement.

"Ab-CoV also has a wide range of search and display options through which users can directly search and download the processed data, based on the antibody's name, viral protein epitope, neutralised viral strain, antibody and nanobody. It also has the option to view structures of antibodies or viral proteins in a 3D model," Gromiha added.

Although large amounts of experimental and computational data have been stored online to understand the virus, the emergence of new variants prompted researchers to gather new and comprehensive information.

Such efforts will help to develop newer drugs and deal better with disasters that affect human health and economies, globally.

"AbCoV is an exhaustive repository of antibodies, not just specific to SARS CoV-2 but also to other members of the coronavirus family such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) viruses," said Vani Janakiraman, Faculty, Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras.

"This repository would aid in comparative studies among different neutralising antibodies across coronaviruses and to assess their properties, interaction patterns with epitopes on the native and mutant viral proteins. Such an effort eventually would help to gauge the efficacy of these antibodies towards existing and emerging viral variants," she added.