Matt discusses promise and challenges for COVID-19 nanobodies
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
The recent discovery of a llama antibody against SARS-CoV-2 is an exciting development but the road to the clinic might be a long one
Matt was recently interviewed for a BBC article on the recent discovery that a llama named Winter may have produced an antibody that could help in the fight against pathogenic betacoronaviruses. Researchers from the Department of Molecular Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin have isolated a unique type of single-domain antibody from Winter, known as a nanobody, that effectively block SARS-CoV-2 infection in the laboratory. They are optimistic about the use of this nanobody during coronavirus outbreaks. Matt, who was not involved in the research, agreed that the study is very exciting, because it takes a different approach. "While llamas are not the most common animal in experimental studies, in recent years they have become very popular as a source of these unique nanobody molecules," DeLisa tells BBC Mundo. However, he cautions that there is still "a long way to go" for a llama-derived nanobody to be approved for use in humans. "This is not a standard therapy. They will have to demonstrate that it is safe and effective to use llama antibodies in humans," says DeLisa, adding that they must move beyond in vitro testing. Matt also highlights the importance of more studies like this one. "It is not enough that only one team finds a nanobody, we need many teams developing many types of antibodies, with the hope that at least one will be identified that is truly effective against the virus." Meanwhile Winter, who is already 4 four years old, continues to graze calmly in the fields of Belgium. "She is enjoying a well-deserved rest," says Daniel Wrapp, the lead author on the publication.
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