A cell-free high throughput assay for assessment of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies

N Biotechnol. 2022 Jan 25;66:46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2021.10.002. Epub 2021 Oct 7.


Highly accurate serological tests are key to assessing the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and the level of immunity in the population. This is important to predict the current and future status of the pandemic. With the recent emergence of new and more infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants, assays allowing for high throughput analysis of antibodies able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 become even more important. Here, we report the development and validation of a robust, high throughput method, which enables the assessment of antibodies inhibiting the binding between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The assay uses recombinantly produced spike-f and ACE2 and is performed in a bead array format, which allows analysis of up to 384 samples in parallel per instrument over seven hours, demanding only one hour of manual handling. The method is compared to a microneutralization assay utilising live SARS-CoV-2 and is shown to deliver highly correlating data. Further, a comparison with a serological method that measures all antibodies recognizing the spike protein shows that this type of assessment provides important insights into the neutralizing efficiency of the antibodies, especially for individuals with low antibody levels. This method can be an important and valuable tool for large-scale assessment of antibody-based neutralization, including neutralization of new spike variants that might emerge.

Keywords: Antibodies; Bead-based; Cell-free; Neutralization; Pseudoneutralization; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / immunology
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / isolation & purification*
  • Antibodies, Viral / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19* / immunology
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Neutralization Tests
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants