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‘Llama pharma’ highlights innovation at heart of industry

January 15, 2021

As COVID-19 continues to dominate global headlines, hopes of a return to normality have been boosted by the successful deployment of vaccines through widespread inoculation efforts.

To date, three vaccination projects have been approved for use in several countries and work is progressing well to bring more to market soon. These should include products from Novavax, and Janssen, both of which are currently undergoing thorough clinical trials.

The ongoing threat posed by Coronavirus is incredibly real. Aside from the immediate health impacts of those affected by it, the disease is leaving wide-ranging negative marks on general society, economies, culture, ecology, and politics.

From piling further pressures on to already struggling healthcare systems, to the closure of businesses and job losses, nothing has escaped the clutches of Covid-19.

The sheer speed of infection and the volume of unknowns associated with it have been met with robustness and determination by the scientific community resulting in the fast-tracking of highly effective and safe vaccine formulas.

It has also highlighted the ability of the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries to respond with innovation and speed to emerging situations and circumstances.

In recent weeks and months, this innate capacity to think outside the box has been exemplified by at least two ground-breaking studies into the positive impact llamas and alpacas could have on future efforts to fight Covid-19.

Researchers from the University of Bonn, the Karolinska Institute and Scripps Research Institute have successfully fused two nanobodies from the animals to create a drug that simultaneously attacks multiple sites of the virus’s spike protein.

It is hoped that due to their effectiveness, stability, and ease of production, the nanobody-based vaccines, once fully tested and approved, could provide a further, less costly weapon to the fight against coronavirus.

Initial testing is promising with researchers reporting the engineered nanobodies were more than 100-fold more effective at neutralizing the virus than single-armed ones in cell culture were.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the ‘llama pharma’ has continued with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) releasing results for their llama-inspired Covid-19 treatment that show it has withstood the effects of being freeze-dried, exposed to heat and aerosolized.

They are currently pursuing research to determine if it could be used as a self-administered form of protection against the virus.

These developments will take time and are some way behind the ongoing anti-body-based vaccines. However, they are encouraging, and reflective of the relentless pursuit of science and scientists in the drive to curb coronavirus once and for all.

For further information contact:

Jonathan Walmsley
T: 0203 143 2195

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