Llama Antibody Engineered to Block Coronavirus

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Scientists were inspired by antibodies produced by this llama, named Winter, to develop their antibody against SARS-CoV-2. Winter is four years old and still living on a farm in the Belgian countryside operated by Ghent University’s Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology. Photo credit: Tim Coppens.

Llama antibody engineered to block coronavirus

by Sharon Reyonlds/NIH Research Matters

At a Glance

  • Based on antibodies isolated from llamas, researchers engineered an antibody that prevented SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from entering cells in laboratory experiments.
  • Follow-up work is being planned to test the antibody in animal models of the disease.
Llamas on farmLlamas and other animals make small antibodies that might serve as the basis for potential therapeutics. This llama, which made the antibodies used in this study, is four years old and still living on a farm in the Belgian countryside operated by Ghent University’s Vlaams Institute for Biotechnology. Tim Coppens

 

Animals produce antibodies much like those made by the human immune system. But some animals, such as llamas, also produce another type of antibody that’s only about a quarter of the size of a typical human antibody. Such “single-domain” antibodies, or nanobodies, have several features that make them of interest as potential therapeutics.

Nanobodies are very stable, so they could potentially be stored for a long time after production. They can also be delivered by an inhaler directly to the lungs, which makes them particularly promising for respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an international pandemic on March 11, 2020. To date, it has infected more than 4 million people worldwide and killed over a quarter million. Researchers are rushing to develop vaccines. In the meantime, effective treatments are urgently needed.

Researchers led by Daniel Wrapp and Dr. Jason McLellan from the University of Texas, in collaboration with a Belgian research team, had developed nanobodies from llamas for research into Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Both these diseases are caused by coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2.

References: Structural Basis for Potent Neutralization of Betacoronaviruses by Single-Domain Camelid Antibodies. Wrapp D, De Vlieger D, Corbett KS, Torres GM, Wang N, Van Breedam W, Roose K, van Schie L; VIB-CMB COVID-19 Response Team, Hoffmann M, Pöhlmann S, Graham BS, Callewaert N, Schepens B, Saelens X, McLellan JS. Cell. 2020 Apr 29. pii: S0092-8674(20)30494-3. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.031. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 32375025.

Funding: NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID); Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie; Ghent University; Research Foundation – Flanders; Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen; RAPID Consortium.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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