Game changer? UCSF scientists say nose spray to kill coronavirus could be available in months

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Synthetic antibodies that researchers believe neutralize the coronavirus have been created at UCSF and could be available for use in nose sprays or inhalers within a few months if clinical trials go well. They hope the development will be a game changer in the worldwide effort to halt the pandemic.

The tiny, engineered protein molecules, developed in two UCSF laboratories by a team of 60 scientists, including doctoral and graduate students, are modeled after super-strength antibodies found in llamas and camels.

Dubbed AeroNabs, the synthetic antibodies bind to and inactivate the infamous spike proteins that the coronavirus uses to penetrate and commandeer human cells, according to a study published as a preprint Monday on the open access site bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”) but not yet peer reviewed.

“It’s like a mousetrap. It binds to the spike protein so tightly that it basically never lets go,” said Peter Walter, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and co-inventor of the AeroNab molecules. “It’s a huge thing for us.”

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