Image of the first Spikebody prototype. Synthetic immunology will be used as a tool to engineer pan-coronavirus immunity. /CNIO
The project aims at preventing or treating SARS-CoV-2 infections in hospitalised patients with serious diseases
It is granted 250,000 euros by the BBVA Foundation
A project to generate antibody responses to COVID-19, carried out at the Immunology Unit of 12 de Octubre Hospital’s Research Institute (i+12) and the Crystallography and Protein Engineering Unit of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), has been granted 250,000 euros by the BBVA Foundation. This year, the BBVA Foundation grants went exclusively to research projects focusing on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
The project, titled Synthetic immunology to engineer pan-coronavirus immunity and led by Luis Álvarez-Vallina of i+12, “aims at generating engineered antibodies for different types of coronaviruses.” The project is based upon synthetic immunology, a strategy that will be used to manipulate the immune system in a rational way.
Specifically, they will generate molecules capable to stop the coronavirus infection process that take place via angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a protein involved in the regulation of blood pressure. These next-gen molecules, named spikebodies, inhibit the interactions between the enzyme and the spike proteins protruding from the surface of coronaviruses.
Spikebodies will become an invaluable tool for prophylaxis and treatment during outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging coronaviruses. If the results of the preliminary trials are encouraging, “in two years’ time, these ‘antibody mimetics’ will be administered to hospitalised patients with serious diseases for prophylaxis or treatment, by systemic treatment or inhalation,” says Álvarez-Vallina.
As Inés Muñoz, Head of the Crystallography and Protein Engineering Unit at CNIO, explains, “structural biology plays a key role in this project, as it has guided us through the design of spikebodies right from the very beginning. Structural information will help to develop more effective and selective antibodies.”
The project carried out by i+12 and CNIO is one of the four research projects that were awarded BBVA Foundation grants in the field of Biomedicine, out of 300 applications.