#115 - David Watkins, Ph.D.: A masterclass in immunology, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccine strategies for COVID-19


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In this episode, David Watkins, professor of pathology at George Washington University, shares how insights from his HIV and Zika virus research could apply to SARS-CoV-2 protection strategies. David introduces monoclonal antibodies as an intervention to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection, and also discusses how they could be used as a hedge to vaccine development. Additionally, David’s immunology tutorial explains the innate and adaptive immune systems and their differentiated responses to viral infection.

We discuss:

  • Background and current interest in immunology [4:30];
  • Immunology 101—The innate and adaptive immune system [10:15];
  • Defining antibodies, importance of neutralizing antibodies, and serology testing for COVID-19 [19:00];
  • B cells—How they fight viruses, create antibodies, and fit into the vaccine strategy [25:00];
  • T cells—Role in the adaptive immune system and ability to kill infected cells to prevent viral spread [36:15];
  • Valuable lessons from HIV applied to SARS-CoV-2 [51:00];
  • Lessons taken from the hepatitis C success story [1:01:30];
  • Monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and the most promising strategies for preventing and treating COVID-19 infection [1:04:45];
  • COVID-19 vaccines in development [1:19:00];
  • How David’s work with Zika virus informs his thinking on SARS-CoV-2 [1:25:20];
  • Why a vaccine for COVID-19 doesn’t need to be perfect to be effective [1:27:45]; and
  • More.

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