Meet the Norfolk scientist working on a coronavirus treatment

Claire Tebbutt in an IONTAS lab researching coronavirus treatment. Picture: IONTAS

Claire Tebbutt in an IONTAS lab researching coronavirus treatment. Picture: IONTAS


A Norfolk-born scientist is part of a research team hoping to find a treatment for coronavirus.

Claire Tebbutt, research scientist at IONTAS. Picture: IONTASClaire Tebbutt, research scientist at IONTAS. Picture: IONTAS

Claire Tebbutt, who grew up in Reepham, is working hard in the labs at biotechnology firm IONTAS, in Cambridge, looking at how antibodies can be used in the treatment of Covid-19.

The research scientist said: “I became a scientist and got into this industry to try and help people and change the world for the better, so to know that what I am doing could directly benefit so many people and save lives makes me feel very proud.

“The experimental work involves taking the Covid-19 recovered patient samples and extracting all of the antibodies from these donors to create a big antibody library.

“This library will contain the antibodies that the donors’ own immune systems have made in response to the coronavirus.

Claire Tebbutt in an IONTAS lab researching coronavirus treatment. Picture: IONTASClaire Tebbutt in an IONTAS lab researching coronavirus treatment. Picture: IONTAS

“We then use our Phage display and Mammalian display technologies that were developed by our chief executive John Mcafferty to pull out and identify any antibodies that bind, recognise and neutralise Covid-19.”

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While work is underway on a Covid-19 vaccine, this will not help those who have the virus.

Miss Tebbutt’s work aims to treat current patients and future mutations of the virus.

IONTAS has partnered with FairJourney Biologics to try and find an antibody that can treat the virus.

“It’s amazing to be involved in this collaboration,” Miss Tebbutt added, “being hands on in the lab carrying out experiments and research knowing that it could lead to a vital treatment for coronavirus.”

Neil Butt, chief business officer at IONTAS, said: “Key here is the speed to identify a high affinity antibody that results in a potent neutralisation of the virus.

“At the end of the day such antibodies must be developable and manufacturable, many antibodies fail in the transition from research data to large scale manufacturing. The approach we have developed should mitigate significant risk in this transition.

“Speed is imperative, but combining the efforts of the best scientists will also be pivotal.

“We should also focus on the long term once the immediate need is over and look to generate antibodies that will cross react with other related coronavirus members to have a generic treatment for other potential coronavirus pandemics.”

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