Bridging The Gap

A blueprint for a future pandemic

A blueprint for a future pandemic

Last week, we talked about the inevitability of a future pandemic. To be prepared for an outbreak, we need blueprints for therapies and public health strategies at the ready.

SPARK is now developing nasal drops containing chicken antibodies as protection against COVID-19, and is developing the nasal drops’ protocols and testing with such an inevitable outbreak in mind.

One huge advantage of the nasal drop technology is it can be easily produced, distributed and stored around the world. This will aid the speed at which this prophylactic therapy can be shared around the globe to prevent and manage a pandemic.

The production of IgY antibodies is quite low-tech, requiring neither sophisticated procedures nor expensive equipment. Instead, chickens are the manufacturing facility. Chickens are readily available globally, and can quickly be procured, immunized with a protein from a virus, and the immunized hens provided to individuals, with each hen producing about an egg a day for 8 to 10 months. The eggs can be quickly harvested, the antibodies extracted, and formulated into drops within days.

Antibody extraction from the eggs is easy, requiring only a simple water extraction method. Daria Mochly-Rosen and a student team at Stanford are designing an at-home manufacturing kit that can be used to extract the IgY antibodies from the egg yolks, and can be distributed to any individual to produce the nasal drops. Mochly-Rosen estimates that a dose prepared with these home extraction kits could cost as little as 2 cents.

“This will allow antibodies to be produced locally anywhere in the world, and available to distribute within six weeks of identification of the pandemic-causing virus,” Mochly-Rosen said.

Storage and handling of the nasal drop technology is also straightforward, and the stability of the antibodies means the therapy doesn’t require cold chain supply conditions for distribution.

“One of the most useful characteristics of IgYs is their stability during processing steps,” noted a 2019 review. Chicken IgY antibodies can be stored at room temperature (approximately 20-25°C or 68-77°F) for periods of time, and stored at 4°C (40°F; approximate refrigerator temperatures) for many years. In fact, one study found IgY antibodies could be stored at 4°C for 10 years without loss of antibody activity. That study also suggested that IgY antibodies could maintain activity when stored at room temperature for 6 months, and retained activity after one month of storage at 37°C or 100°F.

Mochly-Rosen’s team is performing stability studies on the nasal drops, which suggest the formulated nasal drops can be stored at room temperature for a month or even much longer. Chicken eggs themselves can be stored for 3-4 weeks without refrigeration, or 6 months at 4°C, without loss of antibody activity.

Mochly-Rosen said, “any country can immunize hens and can produce purified IgY for treatment. Our goal is to provide detailed step by step protocols to enable exactly that.”

The nasal drops are currently undergoing rigorous clinical trials in humans and lab testing to ensure they are safe and effective. All procedures and testing are done according to industry standards, with input from FDA. If the nasal drops are approved by FDA, the therapy can be easily modified to target any new virus that poses a threat, and be ready for efficacy studies in 6 weeks.

However, SPARK is in need of funding to finish the current project and have a blueprint ready for the next time. If you are interested in contributing to the project, or would like more information, please visit SPARK’s COVID-19 website here.