University of Helsinki researchers have developed a molecule known as TriSb92 that in laboratory animal studies has been confirmed as having effective protection against coronavirus infection. The molecule identifies a region in the spike protein of the coronavirus common to all current variants of the virus and inhibits its functioning. The results were published in the Nature Communications journal.
“When administered nasally, the TriSb92 molecule is extremely effective in preventing infection, and experiments carried out in cell cultures indicate that it also encompasses the very latest variants,” explains Postdoctoral Researcher Anna R. Mäkelä from Professor Kalle Saksela’s research group.
Unlike face masks, the molecule can, when sprayed into the nose, prevent infection even after a few hours of exposure. The molecule remains fully functional at room temperature for at least 18 months, making it well suited for use as a nasal spray.
A key tool for future coronavirus pandemics?
Nasally administered protection can be a crucial help in preventing the spread of the virus in the future.
“The latest variants effectively avoid the immune protection provided by both vaccines and the COVID-19 disease, and current vaccines are not effective in preventing transmission,” Mäkelä says.
Moreover, the nasal spray can protect those people from serious disease who do not gain sufficient immunity from vaccines, such as immunocompromised individuals and elderly.
The molecule could work against relatives of SARS-CoV-2.
According to the researchers, the molecule could also work against future animal-borne close relatives of SARS-CoV-2, which are expected to be the cause of entirely new coronavirus pandemics.
Preventing influenza and other respiratory viruses
According to the researchers, the sherpabody-technology used is also applicable to the prevention of many other viral diseases, particularly influenza and other respiratory viruses. In the next stage, the molecule must be tested in clinical trials, after which it could be made commercially available.
The technology is also applicable to the prevention of many other viral diseases.
“The whole approach stems from a technical solution based on a binder protein platform developed in Finland, which was not originally intended for the development of an antiviral drug. It provides an opportunity for many other new initiatives based on the accurate identification of diseased cells or pathogens in patients,” Mäkelä says.
“Successful commercialisation of the nasal spray could lead to the creation of a thriving Finnish business,” Mäkelä points out.