In cooperation between Estonian companies, the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences, technology has been developed for producing nasal and throat spray based on antibodies against the novel coronavirus – and initial studies have shown it may help prevent infection.
According to Mart Ustav, a professor emeritus of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology, who led the development of the new technology, the product is based on a preparation produced from the colostrum of hyperimmunised cows.
“Colostrum has the best natural ability to provide the newborn with primary protective immunity through antibodies produced by the mother. We developed a technology for purifying antibodies in colostrum and the result is a preparation that can be used to make a nasal and throat spray that may inhibit coronavirus infection,” Ustav said in a statement.
He emphasised that it was not a medicine, but an antiviral preparation that acts on the surface of the mucous membranes in the nasopharynx, where it can specifically inactivate the novel coronavirus.
According to Ustav, preclinical tests have shown the produced preparation has a neutralising effect on the virus.
May be effective against various virus strains
“It is noteworthy that these antibodies were effective not only against the Wuhan strain but also against the new, more easily transmitted UK, South Africa and Brazil variants, which we studied both in biochemical and pseudovirus infection experiments,” Ustav added.
“Animal testing showed that instilling a solution of antibodies from colostrum into the nose one hour before inoculation with large amounts of SARS-CoV-2 significantly reduced the viral titre in the lungs. This suggests that our nasal and throat spray preparation can capture and neutralise SARS-CoV-2 virus in the nasopharynx.”
According to Ruth Oltjer, one of the leaders of the project and the head of a company called Chemi-Pharm, they now need to quickly move on from research.
“As the next step, the consortium is planning to carry out clinical studies and start producing SARS-CoV-2 BioBlock, the nasal and throat spray containing the preparation, as soon as possible,” Oltjer said.
Not a replacement for a vaccine or wearing a mask
“For that, we have started the production of test batches of SARS-CoV-2 BioBlock and submitted the protocols of two clinical studies to the University of Tartu Human Research Ethics Committee for approval.”
Oltjer noted that SARS-CoV-2 BioBlock could be helpful wherever it is difficult for people to stay away from each other: homes, restaurants, schools, sports practices and competitions, workplaces, public transport and other situations.
“Its use would be especially advisable for close contacts of infected people to reduce the risk of infection, but also for the infected to be less infectious,” she said, emphasising, however, that SARS-CoV-2 BioBlock cannot replace vaccination or mask wearing, but is an additional measure to break the infection chains of the virus.
The consortium behind the technology includes Icosagen Group, Chemi-Pharm, the Institute of Pharmacy, the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine and the Institute of Technology of the University of Tartu, the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Eerika Farm and Teadus ja Tegu.
Cover: Nasal and throat spray SARS-CoV-2 BioBlock. Photo by manufacturer.