Antibodies against emerging zoonotic viruses
Despite the possibly devastating consequences, the world is not well prepared for newly emerging viruses that jump from animals to humans and have epidemic/pandemic potential, as has been dramatically demonstrated by the recent emergence of SARS-coronavirus-2. Newly developed vaccines or therapeutic antibodies will come too late in outbreak situations due to their slow generation and approval rate. To be better prepared against future emerging viruses, novel immunisation strategies are required that broadly protect against multiple members of a virus family. To achieve this goal, researchers from Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center have teamed up with Harbour Antibodies (part of Harbour Biomed).
The success of a virus depends among others on its ability to escape the host immune response. Several viruses, including influenza and coronaviruses, do so by steering antiviral antibodies to those parts of the virus particle they can easily vary. The current project aims to outsmart these viruses. After identification of non-variable sites of vulnerability for these viruses, broadly-protective antibodies that target these conserved sites will be developed and novel strategies to induce such broadly-protective immune responses will be explored. Comparison of viruses of different families will provide novel insights that may be of use for a better protection against as of yet unknown zoonotic viruses. This is important as the question is not if, but when a novel zoonotic virus will emerge.