Shark-derived proteins may be effective against COVID-19

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

January 25, 2021 -- Elasmogen, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has identified a next-generation protein-based drug with the potential to stop COVID-19 infections.

The newly identified anti-COVID-19 spike protein variable domain of new antigen receptors (VNARs) block infection of SARS-CoV-2 in live viral assays at doses as low as 200 pM; a level equivalent to reported highly effective antibodies.

Elasmogen's VNAR platform can bind to targets at sites that are inaccessible to human antibodies translating, in many cases, to increased potency and specificity against the disease. This is achieved by crystallizing the lead VNAR as it binds to the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein. The resulting VNARs are only a tenth of the size of alternative human antibodies, which are large and complex to manufacture. They can also be delivered to patients through alternative routes of administration, including directly into the nose and throat as opposed to injection.

"At Elasmogen we have been able to capture, using the latest protein and genetic engineering techniques, the immune system of 10,000 shark equivalents in a test-tube, said Caroline Barelle, PhD, CEO and chief scientific officer at Elasmogen. "We then screened these for VNAR binders that block viral infection, and are delighted with the outcomes."

Initial funding for the research was provided by the Scottish government and was coordinated through the University of Aberdeen.


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