In recent years, the increasing commitment of TLS to in-house research has produced a significant growth of the scientific contribution of the foundation’s researchers
MONOCLONAL ANTIBODY DISCOVERY (MAD) LAB
The MAD Lab research team at the Fondazione TLS started its activities in 2018 thanks to a 2.5-million-euro ERC Advanced Grant focused on anti-microbial resistance, and has grown quickly thanks to various sources of funding received for tackling different health challenges (Shigella, Klebsiella pneumoniae and, more recently, coronavirus SARS-CoV-2). The Lab has consolidated skills in the identification and production of monoclonal antibodies that can be tested in vitro against bacteria and viruses.
The MAD Lab focuses on different research projects:
- ERC vAMRes (Vaccines as a remedy against Anti-Microbial Resistance) Project – “Isolation and screening of human monoclonal antibodies against AMR for therapy and for discovery of novel vaccine antigens”. Through isolation of natural antibodies and identification of the recognized antigens, the project aims at developing vaccines capable of defeating Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Gonococcus), Streptococcus pneumoniae (Pneumococcus) and Escherichia coli pathogenic strains, through the application of advanced technologies to the Reverse Vaccinology model developed by Dr. Rino Rappuoli (Principal Investigator of the vAMRes Project) in the late 1990s and now proposed again with a 2.0 approach.
ERC EUROPEAN GRANT – Duration: 5 years; Starting date: November 2018; Amount: 2.5 million euros.
- ShiMabs Project – “Human monoclonal antibodies against Shigella (ShiMabs), for therapy and vaccine acceleration”. The objective of the project is to isolate therapeutic monoclonal antibodies against different strains of Shigella, a bacterium responsible for bowel infections, especially in children in the poorest areas of the world.
WELLCOME TRUST GRANT – Duration: 3 years; Starting date: March 2021; Amount: more than 4 million euros.
- MabCo19 Project, started in collaboration with INMI Spallanzani, focuses on the discovery and development of human monoclonal antibodies against coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, from blood of recovering/recovered patients, with the aim of using them for prophylactic/therapeutic purposes and as molecular baits for the discovery of vaccine antigens. The experimental approach followed is called Reverse Vaccinology 2.0, which represents the evolution of the first Reverse Vaccinology strategy optimized by Dr. Rino Rappuoli.
FUNDS: started in March 2020, within the C.Re.Me.P. (Regional Centre for Precision Medicine) Project funded by the Region of Tuscany, the project also received funds from Achilles Vaccines under the EU Malaria Fund.
- New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM)-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae. The project deals with the isolation of human monoclonal antibodies from patients who recovered from NDM-producing K. pneumoniae infection. It uses an innovative high-throughput imaging platform and deep learning algorithms for image analysis, capable of characterizing thousands of mAbs to find the most potent ones. The overarching goal of this project is to identify broadly protective mAbs against highly virulent K. pneumoniae strains, thus providing a therapeutic solution to NDM K. pneumoniae infections.
C.Re.Me.P. Funds (Region of Tuscany) – Duration: 2 years; Starting date: December 2019.
- Wellcome Leap – RNA Readiness + Response (R3) Program: Work on the “Development of extremely potent human mRNA-encoded monoclonal antibodies against viral and bacterial pathogens” is supported by Wellcome Leap as part of the R3 Program.
MAD Lab Coordinator and vAMRes Principal Investigator: Rino Rappuoli