Synthetic antibodies that the researchers believe inactivate coronavirus have been made at UCSF and can be used in nasal sprays or inhalers within months if clinical trials are going well. They hope this development will be a game-changing factor in a worldwide pandemic prevention effort.
Small, technically engineered protein molecules, developed in two UCSF laboratories by a team of 60 scientists, including PhDs and graduate students, are modeled after super antibodies. Strong is found in llamas and camels.
Named AeroNabs, synthetic antibodies bind to and neutralize notorious mutant proteins that coronaviruses use to invade and control human cells, according to a study published on Monday. bioRxiv open-access website (pronounced “biological repository”) but has not yet been peer reviewed.
“It̵7;s like a mousetrap. Peter Walter, professor of biochemistry and physiology at UCSF and co-inventor of the AeroNab molecule, says it binds so tightly to the mutant protein that it never leaves. “It was a huge thing for us.”
The molecules are smaller but more powerful than the antibodies that humans naturally generate as a reaction to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In this case, the researchers say, they stop the mutant protein from opening like a flower before it attaches to a cell, blocking the virus’s ability to bind to ACE2 receptors on human cells.