NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — What could be a breakthrough in a treatment for COVID-19 was announced in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, it’s a kind of super-powerful antibody drug that could be given nasally — and it comes from llamas.

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Antibodies in plasma from recovered coronavirus patients or made in the lab may be effective treatments for COVID-19, but they do have drawbacks. They’re hard to make, expensive, they have to given intravenously, and are not that stable. That’s where Wally the llama comes in.

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It turns out llamas make human-like antibodies to coronavirus. But they also make tiny fragments of the full-size antibodies dubbed “nano-antibodies.” Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh isolated those tiny pieces, and at a news conference Thursday announced the huge advantages the nano-antibodies have over full-size antibodies.

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“Our nano-antibodies are extremely stable. They can sit at room temperature for up to more than six weeks, or longer. They can be freeze dried for shipping and storage, which is really important for the drug developments,” said Dr. Yi Shi of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


The nano-antibodies are also many times more powerful at neutralizing the COVID-19 virus than large antibodies. The drug that will soon be tested in humans will not be made in llamas. That’s just where they were discovered.

These nano-bodies are very easy to manufacture and because they have been shown safe in animals, human clinical trials should be smaller and faster than vaccine trials, Gomez reported.


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