Neutralising SARS-CoV-2 infection with shark VNAR antibodies

While the global vaccine roll-out continues, the role of therapeutic antibodies to combat Covid-19 should not be overlooked. Now researchers have identified a novel class of antibodies that appears to have an ability to neutralise the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and be able to block some of the recent mutations of the virus.

Ossianix, an antibody engineering company, and the University of Graz have released the publication of a preclinical study – Single domain shark VNAR antibodies neutralise SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro – that describes discovery of highly potent neutralising single domain shark antibodies (VNARs) directed against the SARS- CoV-2 spike protein. Single- domain VNAR antibodies are attractive therapeutics
in the fight against Covid-19 as they not only interact with unique epitopes inaccessible to regular immunoglobulin G (IgG) but also are small in size and highly stable.

Ossianix is an antibody engineering company that utilises single-domain antibodies (VNARs) from the shark to develop novel biopharmaceuticals for a number of therapeutic areas including CNS, immunology and oncology. The company was founded by former senior executives from Wyeth and Pfizer and is based in Philadelphia, with research laboratories in Stevenage, UK.

“The fight to control the Covid-19 pandemic will require a broad range of therapeutic approaches,” Dr Frank Walsh, Ossianix

The study was conducted by Ossianix’s team led by Dr. Pawel Stocki in conjunction with Dr. Andreas Kungl, Professor at the University of Graz, Austria. The trial tested a panel of ten VNAR antibodies that blocked the interaction of the spike protein with its receptor ACE2 and neutralised the SARS-CoV-2 virus in vitro. A number of these VNARs were also found to block the interaction between spike protein mutants (N501Y and E484K) and the ACE2 receptor.

“The fight to control the Covid-19 pandemic will require a broad range of therapeutic approaches,” said Dr Frank Walsh, CEO of Ossianix. “Vaccination is the primary strategy, but therapeutic antibodies will also have an important role to play in treating the infection. Shark single- domain VNAR antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 are potent therapeutics and complement the human IgG approaches. Their small size, ability to be used in various formulation such as inhalation and the comparatively low cost of goods make them an attractive addition to existing approaches. These antibodies can be used either as single or combination therapeutics.”

Dr. Kungl added: “We were very intrigued by the highly potent anti-viral activity of Ossianix’ VNARs in inhibiting viral infection and propagation. Taken together with their physical stability, a very patient-friendly dose-response for these biologics can be expected for the treatment of Covid-19 infections.”

Volume 22, Issue 3 – Summer 2021

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