Viruses constitute a major threat to societies. Examples of the last 15 years include avian and swine influenza, Ebola and Nipah viruses, SARS- and MERS-coronavirus. To effectively prevent or impact future outbreaks, new antiviral approaches need to be developed that target viruses causing zoonotic infections in humans. To counteract future outbreaks, a Netherlands Centre of One Health (NCOH) PhD program has been set up to explore novel approaches for development of intervention strategies that target influenza virus and coronavirus families. In this project, we will develop an approach based on single domain antibody (or nanobody) technology. This project is a collaboration between Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Biophysics (Department of Biology, Faculty of Science), Pharmaceutics (Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Science), and Virology (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine).
Nanobodies display several advantages compared to conventional antibodies, such as the capacity to bind structurally hidden epitopes. The PhD candidate will develop nanobodies binding to conserved epitopes on viral proteins from corona- and influenza viruses. After thorough characterization of their binding properties, these nanobodies will subsequently be explored for application in diagnosis, protection, and treatment of viral infection.