Moshoette T, Papathanasopoulos MA, Killick MA. HIV-1 bispecific antibody iMab-N6 exhibits enhanced breadth but not potency over its parental antibodies iMab and N6. J Virol. 2022, 19: 143. PMC9450465
The recently published AMP trial (HVTN 703/HPTN 081 and HVTN704/HPTN 085) results have validated broad neutralising antibodies (bNAbs) as potential anti-HIV-1 agents. However, single bNAb preparations are unlikely to cope with the onslaught of existing and de novo resistance mutations, thus necessitating the use of bNAb combinations to achieve clinically relevant results. Specifically engineered antibodies incorporating two bNAbs into a single antibody structure have been developed. These bispecific antibodies (bibNAbs) retain the benefits of bNAb combinations, whilst several conformations exhibit improved neutralisation potency over the parental bNAbs. Here we report on the engineering of a bibNAb comprising of an HIV-1 spike targeting bNAb N6 and a host CD4 targeting antibody ibalizumab (iMab). Antibodies were expressed in HEK293T cells and purified by protein-A affinity chromatography followed by size exclusion chromatography to achieve homogenous, monomeric, bibNAb preparations. Antibody purity was confirmed by SDS-PAGE whilst epitope specificity and binding were confirmed by ELISA. Finally, antibody breadth and potency data were generated by HIV-1 neutralisation assay (n = 21, inclusive of the global panel). iMab-N6 exhibited better neutralisation breadth (100% coverage) in comparison to its parental bNAbs iMab (90%) and N6 (95%). This is encouraging as exceptional neutralisation breadth is necessary for HIV-1 treatment or prevention. Unfortunately, iMab-N6 did not exhibit any enhancement in potency over the most potent parental antibody, iMab (p = 0.1674, median IC50 of 0.0475 µg/ml, and 0.0665 µg/ml respectively) or the parental combination, iMab + N6 (p = 0.1964, median IC50: combination 0.0457 µg/ml). This result may point to a lack of dual engagement of the bibNAb Fab moieties necessary for potency enhancement. Against the previously reported bibNAbs; iMab-CAP256, 10E08-iMab, and PG9-iMab; iMab-N6 was the lowest performing bibNAb. The re-engineering of iMab-N6 to enhance its potency, while retaining breadth, is a worthwhile endeavour due to its clinical potential.