Can Cows Help Treat COVID-19?

As BIO Digital kicks off today, we continue our BIO: Beyond Imagination series featuring the technology and scientific advancements of BIO member companies. Our newest post features SAB Biotherapeutics and its innovative approach for a potential COVID-19 treatment. Don’t miss SAB’s President and CEO, Eddie Sullivan at this morning’s plenary session entitled Leveraging Innovative Technology to Treat COVID-19.

We know that COVID-19 was of zoonotic origin. Is it possible that a potential treatment lies in the reverse – human to animal? In a recent I am BIO podcast, “Herd” Immunity”, Dr. Eddie Sullivan, president, co-founder and CEO of SAB Biotherapeutics explains how antibodies from cows may be key to treating COVID-19.

Creating Human Antibodies in Cows

SAB scientists create a cow embryo with parts of human chromosomes, including human antibody genes, and turn off the animal antibody genes. Once grown, researchers inject a non-infectious part of the novel coronavirus into the cow, which produces human antibodies to the virus. Scientists draw blood from the cows, extract and purify the antibodies with the hope that these antibodies may treat the coronavirus in humans.  

The antibodies SAB develops are human polyclonal antibodies. While many companies are focusing on possible monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, SAB can develop polyclonal antibodies, the natural immune response to the virus. Polyclonal antibodies are less likely to become resistant if the virus mutates.

On the I am BIO podcast, Dr. Sullivan explained: “Polyclonal antibodies, very different from traditional monoclonal antibodies, bond to multiple locations on a target. This allows the immune system to elicit the entire immune response to fight a disease. It has been known for decades that polyclonal antibodies have very interesting natural properties that can be used to target a specific disease.”

Using cows to create COVID-19 antibodies has another benefit. Cows have significantly more blood than humans and can donate three times a month versus humans who can only donate plasma once a month.

What’s Next

The company announced May 28, 2020 that SAB-185, SAB’s therapeutic candidate, has neutralizing antibodies that are four times higher than the human plasma samples evaluated. With this promising result, SAB has started manufacturing SAB-185 to support clinical development and human trails, which the company expects to begin in early summer.

Could cows be the secret weapon to finding a treatment for COVID-19? There’s more work to be done, but SAB has seen strong results. BIO supports SAB’s efforts to find a potential treatment for the millions of infected people around the world. To learn more about the biotech industry’s work on COVID-19, visit

Registered attendees of BIO Digital can learn more about SAB Biotherapeutics by attending Leveraging Innovative Technology to Treat COVID-19 with Dr. Eddie Sullivan, president & CEO of SAB Biotherapeutics. Registered attendees of BIO Digital also can connect with companies like SAB through BIO’s One-on-One Partnering™ system, educational programming and company presentations.

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