An NIH-led team has demonstrated that neutralizing antibodies can prevent infection of cells by mutant strains of JCV -- the virus responsible for the lethal brain infection PML. In a field with no clinical options, the results provide a rationale for a therapeutic alternative to NIH’s own early stage preventive vaccine.
Moreover, the paper, published in an October issue of Cell Reports, uncovered the mechanism by which the virus enters brain cells, a mystery that has counfounded the field.
Effectively, the study pits NIH as both collaborator and competitor of Neurimmune Holding AG, who provided the broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) and participated in the paper.
The same NIH team that led the study, headed by Christopher Buck, a senior investigator in the institute’s Laboratory of Cellular Oncology, has a prophylactic vaccine in preclinical development that aims to boost the immune response against John Cunningham virus (JCV) in patients on autoimmune therapy who are at risk for developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).
PML has emerged as a serious liability for certain immunosuppressive biologics, most famously Biogen Inc.’s Tysabri natalizumab, marketed for multiple sclerosis. At least 14 other immunosuppressive drugs cause a similarly small but