High-Throughput Proteomics Strategy Used in Effort to Identify Multiple Highly Potent & Specific Nanobodies from Llamas; Possible Uses of Such Nanobodies, Which Can Be Identified Quickly and Inexpensively, Are “Tremendous,” Author States

By capitalizing on a convergence of chemical, biological, and artificial intelligence advances, University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) School of Medicine scientists, and colleagues from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, have developed an unusually fast and efficient method for discovering tiny antibody fragments with big potential for development into therapeutics against deadly diseases. The technique, published online on February 15, 2021 in the journal Cell Systems, is the same process the Pitt team used to extract tiny SARS-CoV-2 antibody fragments from llamas, which could become an inhalable COVID-19 treatment for humans. The new article is titled “Integrative Proteomics Identifies Thousands of Distinct, Multi-Epitope, and High-Affinity Nanobodies.” This approach has the potential to quickly identify multiple potent nanobodies that target different parts of a pathogen--thwarting variants. "Most of the vaccines and treatments against SARS-CoV-2 target the spike protein, but if that part of the virus mutates, which we know it does, those vaccines and treatments may be less effective," said senior author Yi Shi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at Pitt. "Our approach is an efficient way to develop therapeutic cocktails consisting of multiple nanobodies that can launch a multipronged attack to neutralize the pathogen." Dr. Shi and his team specialize in finding nanobodies--which are small, highly specific fragments of antibodies produced by llamas and other camelids. Nanobodies are particularly attractive for development into therapeutics because they are easy to produce and bioengineer. In addition, they feature high stability and solubility, and can be aerosolized and inhaled, rather than administered through intravenous infusion, like traditional antibodies.
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