Nanosota-1: A series of nanobody drugs to combat COVID-19

A series of camelid nanobodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) spike protein to block infection of human cells.
Technology No. 2020-371


  • Therapeutic to combat COVID-19
  • Basic research on SARS-CoV-2

Key Benefits & Differentiators

  • Prophylactic and therapeutic effect in vivo: Preliminary studies in hamsters show good bioavailability and both prophylactic and therapeutic protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Effectively inhibits viral entry into cells: The nanobodies bind their antigen (SARS-CoV-2 spike protein) with high affinity and specificity, potently inhibiting infection of target cells.
  • Improved therapeutic characteristics over conventional antibody drugs: Small size of nanobodies allow them to recognize less exposed epitopes and more easily penetrate tissues and barriers for effective biodistribution.
  • Much more cost-effective than conventional antibody drugs: Camelid nanobodies express at high yields, are highly stable, are easy to store and transport and are cost effective. The cost-effectiveness of Nanosota-1 drugs make them a realistic solution to protect the world’s vast population from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camelid nanobodies to treat COVID-19

Currently, there is no clinically approved drug to specifically treat the SARS-CoV-2 viral infections, and owing to the catastrophic nature of the pandemic there is a race to find a viable treatment. Unfortunately, many traditional drug types have limitations that slow the speed at which they can be identified and developed. Small molecule drugs often suffer from relatively low specificity (resulting in side effects). Conversely, traditional antibody drugs often have poor pharmacokinetics, are unstable and are expensive to produce. As an alternative route to avoid these limitations, Dr. Fang Li’s lab and Dr. Aaron LeBeau’s lab at the University of Minnesota have developed a series of camelid nanobodies (“Nanosota-1”) that are specific for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Promising preclinical studies

Nanobodies are single domain antibodies produced by camels and llamas that are much smaller than traditional antibodies, but still bind with high affinity and specificity. Representative nanobodies in the Nanosota series have been experimentally shown to bind SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with high affinity, block binding of the protein to the human ACE2 receptor, and inhibit entry into mammalian cells. Owing to their optimal therapeutic and physical properties, these camelid nanobodies have high potential for development into a novel COVID-19 treatment. Development is ongoing and animal trials are underway. Preliminary results have shown that one representative nanobody protected hamsters from SARS-CoV-2 infections both prophylactically and therapeutically.

Phase of Development

TRL: 3
SARS-CoV-2 camelid nanobodies block viral entry to mammalian cells in vitro. Preliminary pharmacokinetic studies indicate good bioavailability in an animal model that offers both prophylactic protection treatment from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Fang Li, PhD
Professor, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
External Link (
Aaron LeBeau, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology
External Link (

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News Articles

Learning from llamas, U of M scientists develop a candidate COVID-19 drug

  • swap_vertical_circlelibrary_booksReferences (1)
    1. Ye, G., Gallant, J., Zheng, J., Massey, C., Shi, K., Tai, W., Odle, A., Vickers, M., Shang, J., Wan, Y. and Du, L. , "The development of Nanosota-1 as anti-SARS-CoV-2 nanobody drug candidates.", Elife 10 (2021): e64815.
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