New achievements in the fight against COVID-19

Published 20/10/2020 in category News

Bioinnovo SA was part of a multidisciplinary team responsible for the development of avian IgY antibodies that neutralize the virus causing COVID-19


The project, “Development and production of critical reagents for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment: Nanobodies, IgY polyclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins,” was undertaken by a consortium of scientific partners from multiple national institutions, including Bioinnovo SA. With strong support from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), the consortium quickly developed and determined that llama derived VHH nanobodies and IgY antibodies from chicken egg yolk effectively neutralized and prevented SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, from infecting in vitro cell cultures.

The recombinant VHH monoclonal antibodies (nanobodies) and the avian polyclonal IgY antibodies are promising new reagents for prophylactic and therapeutic uses in people at high-risk of contracting, or patients with, COVID-19. Their SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing capabilities were recently confirmed by Itatí Ibáñez, Ph.D. (CONICET, Argentina) using viral pseudo-particles. Simultaneously, Jonathan Auguste, Ph.D. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute, U.S.A) evaluated the neutralizing capabilities of the new antibodies on a wild-type SARS-CoV-2 isolate. Research trials carried out at the Malbrán Institute further confirmed the antibodies’ neutralizing capabilities.

Development of these new reagents, which are being evaluated for their commercial potential, was led by Viviana Parreño, Ph.D., Scientific Coordinator of INTA’s INCUINTA projects. The project was funded by a grant from the National Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MINCYT) awarded to the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) as part of the national governments continuing efforts to combat COVID-19. INTA’s scientists hope these new antibodies, together with other available drugs and vaccines, can provide additional immunotherapeutic tools in the fight against COVID-19. Animal safety trials are underway and will be finished in the next few weeks. Upon approval from the regulatory authorities, the production scale-up phase will begin, followed by clinical trials.

INTA has now developed two passive immunotherapeutic reagents against SARS-CoV-2: the first utilizes a cocktail of SARS-CoV-2-specific nanobodies; the second, in which Bioinnovo was directly involved, utilizes egg yolk-derived polyclonal IgY. The polyclonal IgYs are cost-effective to produce, easily scalable, and production complies with animal welfare regulations. Both approaches represent massive potential medical and commercial opportunities.

These results place Argentina among those countries that have developed their own nanobodies, along with the United States, China, Sweden, and Belgium, and additional EU countries. Therefore, Argentina has become the first country in the Southern hemisphere to produce these unique nanobodies.

About the Project

The development team consists of researchers from INTA, CONICET, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (INEI) of ANLIS- Malbrán, the Anti-Covid 19 Consortium leaded by the School of Physical and Natural Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, and Bioinnovo SA, a public-private biotechnology company formed by INTA and Vetanco SA.

The project was funded by the Agency for Research, Development, and Innovation Promotion, the INCUINTA project, the INTA’s project portfolio, and the Project called “Promoting the Application of the Nagoya Protocol in Argentina” (GEF/UNDP).

Additional support comes from Argentine pharmaceutical companies and researchers at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) within the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, MD, USA) and the Mount Sinai Hospital (New York, NY, USA), as well as the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC).

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