How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood samples created one of the only effective drugs against Omicron (and why we have so little of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

Corti and his old postdoctoral advisor, well-known Italian immunologist Antonio Lanzavecchia, had a new idea for how to isolate antibodies against a pathogen from the blood of recovered patients.

They believed it could eventually yield drugs to subdue humanity’s many infectious foes, but to test it out, they had started in 2004 with one that had just made headlines: Lanzavecchia used his connections to get a blood sample from a…
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