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Potential Medical Solution Utilizes Nanobody Technology for Detection and Treatment of COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Aug 2020
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Scientists are developing a potential medical solution that utilizes nanobody technology for both the detection as well as treatment of COVID-19.

Beroni Group (New South Wales, Australia) is developing the medical solution in collaboration with China’s Tianjin University. After identifying the 24 specific nanobodies with high affinity to the new coronavirus N- protein and S-protein antigens through high-throughput screening in May this year, the scientific team has used structural biology, computational biology and biophysical methods to further analyze and improve the properties of these nanobodies. Through rational design and transformation, the affinity and specificity of these nanobodies have been greatly enhanced. Out of the 24 nanobodies, 16 deal with the S-protein which can be used as antiviral therapeutics and the other eight deal with the N-protein, for use as a marker in diagnostic assays.

The scientists have successfully established a prokaryotic expression and purification system for nanobodies in vitro. In this respect, they have expressed and purified the 16 S-protein nanobodies with a purity of 98%. For the eight N-protein nanobodies, the nanobody expression vectors have been constructed, and the antibodies purified. The Elisa and Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) methods were successfully used to determine the affinities of antigens and antibodies, and nanobodies with good affinity are selected for affinity enhancement and humanization.

The scientific team is now moving ahead to target the coronavirus-specific nanobodies and conduct pseudovirus neutralization test with the objective of screening out nanobodies with strong affinity and good efficacy to prevent the virus infection. On this basis, the team will optimize and humanize these nanobodies combining structure-based design and random mutations. They will use PML (Precise Mutant Library) database and FASEBA (Fast Screening for Expression, Biophysical-Properties and Affinity) screening technology to carry out the affinity maturation test of the nanobodies, and proceed with further purification and verification to obtain the lead nanobody.

The humanized modification and affinity maturation of nanobodies are expected to be completed within the next three months. The next stage of the study will further advance the preclinical research study such as live virus testing, animal testing and formulation development. The animal testing is aimed to be completed by end-2020 to be followed by the human clinical trials which will take a year to complete. The nanobodies can be used for treatment of coronaviruses, which include the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the SARS coronavirus of 2003 and MERS coronavirus of 2012.

“These results from our preclinical study highlight the potential of the nanobody-based science and represent an important step forward in our research and development efforts for an effective medical cure and diagnostic assay for the COVID-19 virus. We are committed to winning the global battle against COVID-19 pandemic in a safe and effective manner,” said Jacky Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Beroni Group Limited.

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