Austral University team publishes work on neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 developed in Chile

Austral University team publishes work on neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 developed in Chile

Researchers from the Southern University of Chile and the University of Queensland manage to modify alpaca nanoantibodys and fuse them with human antibody fragments that can be used to implement injectable immunotherapy to decrease the severity of Covid 19.

The medical biotechnology laboratory team at the Universidad Austral de Chile has managed to isolate a powerful antibody capable of neutralizing Coronavirus, which has the peculiarity of coming from the alpacas immune system.

As noted by team principal Dr. Alejandro Rojas, in April last year they were able to isolate genetic material to produce unlimited neutralizing antibodies against coronavirus. From that and in conjunction with Dr. Daniel Waterson's group of researchers in Australia they were able to humanize the antibody - called W25 - of alpaca with human fragments and demonstrate that they are able to neutralize the coronavirus. The researcher explains that, unlike other mammals, came lipids, including alpacas and llamas, defend themselves against diseases by producing very simple antibodies, making it possible to extract genetic information to reconstruct this immunity in the laboratory. "These animals have a very simple immune system, which allows genetic information to be extracted and then replicated into bacteria or cells, to produce these antibodies, known as Nanoantibodys, unlimitedly," explains the scientist and academic.

The platform was born with the support of the Regional Government of the Rivers and its Regional Council through the FIC Competitiveness Innovation Fund. The first initiative, called "Creating a Platform for The Fight against Emerging Viruses", presented in 2016, took the initial step in the development of a series of researches that have led to the diagnosis and treatment of antibodies in various areas of Health.

"Today more than ever we appreciate the futuristic vision of the Regional Council, because with its permanent contribution during these years, we have managed to generate today this potentially therapeutic injectable tool against coronavirus."

As he explains, the new fusion unersies the extraordinary power to recognize and neutralize the alpaca antibody virus with the ability to gatillate an immune response from human antibodies. He adds that "we have been one of the first groups in the world to generate neutralizing antibodies against coronavirus, in fact, even today in May 2020 we had already filed a patent application in the United States for more than 30 antibodies, which join the Spike protein of the coronavirus.

The W25 antibody from Tibet to Valdivia

This antibody has a rather peculiar origin. In 2019, Buddhist master Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche visited Chile, had the opportunity to share with two of the collaborating researchers of the UACh Laboratory, belonging to the CETRAM Movement Disorders Center, located in Santiago.

The Buddhist master was very interested in photographing an alpaca, and then specifically for the qualities of his antibodies. The Buddhist teacher's interest allowed him to finally contribute the generous sum of $1000, with the indication of supporting research and thus contributing to Global Health.

"With the money a new stable was built, and from the breeder Llamas del Sur 4 new Alpacas, Buddha, Tara, Dilgo and finally Pedro, name of one of the researchers of CETRAM were brought," says Alexander

Following the instructions entrusted by the Tibetan master, Buddha was the alpaca responsible for generating the antibodies against the coronavirus, a fact that was achieved within two months. "The antibody was christened Willy-25, after the researcher who found it, because in the lab we have a tradition that whoever finds an antibody, baptizes it."

In this sense, Alexander says that procedures with alpacas do not cause them any harm, since under no circumstances are infectious viruses or molecules used that could cause them any negative effect.

Projections and need for state support

The antibodies developed by Dr. Rojas have extraordinary properties in terms of stability, expression and neutralization to be produced on a global scale. The new application is to use it in injectable form in the control of the pandemic and add it to the initial idea of administering it through a nebulizer. Under injectable administration it would allow its use as a supplement to plasma application procedures donated by convalescent patients or rightly could be used in its replacement.

The goal is to produce therapy that stops the progression of the virus in patients, so that it does not reach a serious state and also contributes to the reduction of transmission to healthy people. What is remarkable, in addition, says Dr. Rojas, is that an antibody with these characteristics has been generated in Chile, which is not minor because even though the clinical results of vaccines are very encouraging, it is also important to strengthen immunotherapies to prevent patients from aggravating and coping with hospital facilities.

The development of immunological therapy can go hand in hand with vaccine research, especially as vaccines are known to face production and logistics constraints globally, and it has been seen in frustration as vaccine shipments arrive highly biased. On the other hand, the vast majority of vaccines have not been tested in minors and therefore children will surely not be able to be vaccinated in the short term. It should also be considered, he adds, that there are people who for one reason or another cannot be vaccinated.

After an extensive review, scientific work has been accepted into the journal Scientific Reports In this sense, Alejandro Rojas once again calls on the central authorities of the Ministry of Health and the private sector to support this type of research because "as a team, our goal is to move forward not only because we believe it is very important to have local therapeutic alternatives, but because we also intend to demonstrate that we can contribute in solutions to global problems from the rainy south of Chile".

If you want to learn more about alpacas and research, visit Instagram @alpaca_buddha