SARS-CoV-2 nanobodies - Our little helpers against COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the occurrence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) urgently require the development of improved therapeutics. According to our new data published in EMBO Reports, Professor Rothbauer's research group at the NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute in Reutlingen, in cooperation with the Molecular Virology Department at the University Hospital in Tübingen (AG Prof. Schindler) and the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital in Freiburg (AG Prof. Schwemmle), identified high-affinity neutralising nanobodies (Nbs). Nanobodies are true "flyweights" - they are not only convincing due to their small size and stability, but especially due to their specific binding affinity and low-cost production and were tested as potential drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2. The two Nbs tested showed high thermal stability, were able to bind all currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants with strong affinity and prevented SARS-CoV-2 infection with the beta and delta variants in cellular test systems. The Nbs showed their full efficacy in the animal model, as they significantly attenuated disease progression on the one hand and more mice survived SARS-CoV-2 infection on the other. The results impressively show how new drug candidates can be developed on the basis of rational design and bioengineering. Therefor our little helpers have great potential to face future pandemics.


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