Synthetic antibodies that researchers believe neutralize coronavirus have been developed at UCSF and may be available for use in nasal sprays or inhalers within a few months if clinical trials go well. They hope the development will be a game changer in efforts around the world to stop the pandemic.
The small, engineered protein molecules, developed in two UCSF labs by a team of 60 scientists, including doctoral students and graduates, were modeled after superpower antibodies found in light bulbs and camels.
Called AeroNabs, synthetic antibodies bind and inactivate the infamous peak proteins that the coronavirus uses to penetrate and command human cells, according to a study published Monday in a bioRxiv open page (pronounced “bio-archive”😉 but not however peer reviewed.
“Like a glass. It binds to the peak protein so tightly that it basically doesn’t let go,” said Peter Walter, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and co-inventor of AeroNab molecules. “It’s a big deal for us.”
The molecules are smaller but stronger than the antibodies that humans naturally produce in response to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In this case, the researchers said, they prevent the beak protein from opening like a flower before attaching to cells, stopping the virus from being able to bind to ACE2 receptors in human cells.