Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are appealing as potential therapeutics and prophylactics for viral infections owing to characteristics such as their high specificity and their ability to enhance immune responses. Furthermore, antibody engineering can be used to strengthen effector function and prolong mAb half-life, and advances in structural biology have enabled the selection and optimization of potent neutralizing mAbs through identification of vulnerable regions in viral proteins, which can also be relevant for vaccine design. The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated extensive efforts to develop neutralizing mAbs against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), with several mAbs now having received authorization for emergency use, providing not just an important component of strategies to combat COVID-19 but also a boost to efforts to harness mAbs in therapeutic and preventive settings for other infectious diseases. Here, we describe advances in antibody discovery and engineering that have led to the development of mAbs for use against infections caused by viruses including SARS-CoV-2, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Ebola virus (EBOV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and influenza. We also discuss the rationale for moving from empirical to structure-guided strategies in vaccine development, based on identifying optimal candidate antigens and vulnerable regions within them that can be targeted by antibodies to result in a strong protective immune response.
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