Targeting human infective coronaviruses using alpaca antibodies

Targeting human infective coronaviruses using alpaca antibodies

Project details

Coronaviruses are RNA viruses that infect mammalian and avian species. The rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the SARS and MERS epidemics highlight this family as critically important human pathogens. This project will use existing human coronaviruses as prototypes to develop therapies against future coronavirus outbreaks.

Nanobodies are single domain antibodies isolated from camelids. Their small size, specificity and thermal stability make them ideal candidates for inhaled therapies against respiratory infections. This project will characterise nanobodies generated against coronavirus spike proteins to identify candidates that block host-cell engagement and neutralise infection. We will use a range of biochemical and structural techniques to characterise mechanisms of inhibition and identify potential therapeutic candidates against current human coronaviruses.


Skills learnt: Phage display, protein purification, nanobody characterisation, protein-protein interactions

About our research group

Our lab group has a strong interest in host-pathogen interactions and the use and development of antibody-based technologies to target these interactions. In 2020 we applied these technologies to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus and developed nanobodies effective for neutralization of the virus in animal models. We have now broadened our research in this field to include the other human infective coronaviruses, this will provide preparedness for future pandemics through the development of a diverse repertoire of nanobodies against human coronaviruses.

The lab combines antibody generation with structural biology and functional characterisation to examine nanobody inhibitory mechanisms and to optimise nanobodies for therapeutic development.

Pymm and Adair et al., PNAS 2021 118(19). e2101918118
Dietrich, Biochem J. 2021 478(3):579-595.


Email supervisors




Professor Wai-Hong Tham

Professor Wai-Hong Tham in a laboratory
Joint Division Head
Infectious Diseases and Immune Defence

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