The team involves researchers from Oxford University, the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Diamond Light Source and Public Health England. They hope the antibodies – known as nanobodies due to their small size – could eventually be developed as a treatment for patients with severe COVID-19. The peer reviewed findings are published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
Llamas, camels and alpacas naturally produce quantities of small antibodies with a simpler structure, that can be turned into nanobodies. The team engineered their new nanobodies using a collection of antibodies taken from llama blood cells. They have shown that the nanobodies bind tightly to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, blocking it from entering human cells and stopping infection.