Genetically engineered dairy cows being used in fight against COVID-19


The fight against COVID-19 may get help from an unlikely source, cows in South Dakota.

SAb Biotherapeutics in Sioux Falls has begun to use cows to product human antibodies that subdues SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19.

“This is promising,” Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Science Magazine. “We want to have as many countermeasures as we can.”

SAb Biotherapeutics genetically alters dairy cows so some immune cells carry DNA that allows humans to make antibodies, antibodies are produced on the hoof.

The cows are used as a “giant bioreactor,” according to William Klimstra, a viral immunologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Cows were specifically chosen because of their blood. It contains twice the amount of antibodies per milliliter as human blood.

Some, however, remain skeptical. Manish Sangar, an infectious disease physician in Boston interviewed by Science, said she would need to see further proof on if cows producing antibodies is feasible and economically viable.

No antibodies produced from any animals have ever been approved for treating disease.

Clinical trials to test whether antibodies from the cows’ blood can prevent healthy people from getting infected or benefit those already sick are expected to begin this summer.