Ligandal, one of the world’s leading genetic medicine companies, has modelled a synthetic peptide that could be an effective COVID-19 treatment and SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
Peptides are strings of amino acids that perform diverse biological functions and can bond with pathogens to neutralise them. Ligandal has proven the efficacy of its COVID peptide in computer modelling and simulation studies, and is currently validating the preclinical efficacy of its technology.
Vaccines currently in development face the dual challenge of overcoming the temporary immunity presented by coronavirus infection, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s highly effective cloaking mechanism that effectively renders it invisible to the immune system.
Ligandal’s technology has been designed around the unique genetic signature of the virus, which has informed the development of a peptide nanoscaffold. This peptide prevents the virus from binding with human cells, halting infection. The peptide also simultaneously disables the viral cloaking mechanism, making the virus vulnerable to an immune response.
Andre Watson, CEO and Founder of Ligandal said, “I started Ligandal to create practical genetic medicine technology that solves the world’s most pressing health problems. We had been developing a way of training T-cells to attack cancer tumours, but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, I realised our technology would be effective at neutralising this single, virulent pathogen without requiring a gene therapy component.
“The beauty of our solution is that it can be used as treatment and vaccine. In infected people, the peptide will prevent viral entry and replication, while bolstering the immune response and formation of neutralising antibodies that can eliminate the virus. Other approaches may neutralise the virus, but many alternatives such as antibody therapies and viral-neutralising compounds will leave the body vulnerable to repeat infection.
“In those who haven’t been infected, the peptide will display critical immunoepitopes for antibody and T cell responses against the key parts of the virus necessary for forming a neutralising response. The peptide can also be used in conjunction with other treatments and vaccines—and may bolster the efficacy of spike protein vaccines in particular—although that shouldn’t be necessary if we achieve in vivo results suggested by the in silico modelling.”
Adam Hamdy, a medical consultant and author, who recently joined the company’s advisory board said, “The microbiological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 make it extremely unlikely that current vaccine approaches, which rely on training the immune system but present key challenges with this virus, will offer anything more than partial protection at best. It was clear to me that any effective response to this virus had to target it directly while also bolstering immune response.”